cover image The Elephant's Child

The Elephant's Child

Rudyard Kipling, Emily Bolam. Dutton Books, $13.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-525-44862-4

Curiosity stops just short of being deadly in this adaptation of the Kipling classic. ``In the High and Far-Off Times'' when elephants sported short, ``bulgy'' noses, a young pachyderm full of ``satiable curiosity'' sets off to discover what crocodiles eat for dinner. After a rousing tug-of-war with the Crocodile himself, the Elephant's Child walks away with a new and improved (and quite sore) elongated trunk. Bolam's well-paced version of the tale is sure to perk up the ears of inquisitive listeners. Unfortunately, the text's understated action and gentle humor are overshadowed by random violence--the other animals spank the Elephant's Child whenever he asks a question, and the Elephant Child's new trunk is eventually used to spank them back. Bolam's bright, primitive paintings boldly contrast with airy white backgrounds, and the jungle animals' childlike facial expressions are particularly engaging. Ultimately, though, Kipling's writings remain too sophisticated for the picture book set. Ages 5-up. (Jan.)