Book: If Elephants Wore Pants…


If Elephants Wore Pants…
Hanriette Barkow
Illustrator: Richard Johnson
2004

This is a very cute picture book about a little boy who is taken to visit Elephant Land where all the elephants wear pants. There really isn’t more story than that, just a lot of pretty two-page spreads showing what the boy and the elephant did in Elephant Land. Each picture shows the elephant wearing a different pair of pants and the text always makes sure to tell us about his current pair. Despite the lack of story, the book is fun to read.

The writing is simple and only three or four short lines of text grace each double-page spread. Each spread’s three or four lines are actually a rhyming couplet. The rhyming is nice (and appealing to small children) especially in that it rarely feels forced. I like that the text is presented in more than two lines and that the end of the first “line” is always in the middle of the paragraph and never at the end of a line. This means that the reader is far more likely to read it simply as text and not use the sing-song voice that comes so often from reading obvious rhyming verse. Drawing the eye away from the rhyme also puts the focus on the images in the book, which works very well for this particular story as it largely relies on the pictures. It is a simple visual trick, but it works very well for the book.

The illustrations themselves are quite entertaining. They are brightly coloured with just enough detail to make them fun to look at but not too much to take in. The different pants make a fun focus in each picture, but they never overwhelm the rest of the image. The pictures of the pear orchard and the painter’s studio are my favourites. They are both so saturated with colour (nearly every page is) that I almost wish I could frame them for a child’s room! And the endpapers are just as wonderful. They are covered with pictures of the elephant wearing his various pairs of pants! It’s adorable!

In short, I really enjoy this book. If you are looking for a sweet keepsake story, this isn’t it, but it is a fun book to read and brilliantly designed. I highly recommend it!

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