cover image TRUNKS ALL ABOARD: An Elephant ABC


Barbara Nichol, , illus. by Sir William Cornelius Van Horne. . Tundra, $14.95 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-88776-536-0

At the heart of this handsomely designed volume are charming drawings that Van Horne, a wealthy American-born businessman who once ran the Canadian Pacific Railway, sent home to his grandson while traveling in Europe in 1909. Each signed "Grandpa" and mostly rendered on hotel stationery (the locales of which are nearly as interesting as the illustrations themselves), the pictures feature elephants engaged in a variety of pastimes, many with a travel theme. Polished pen-and-ink and watercolor wash illustrations of a cigar-smoking pachyderm standing on the deck of an ocean liner, riding in a train and lifting a glass of wine with a friend suggest the artist's own activities abroad. Meanwhile, simpler compositions capture more universal activities (a baby elephant pulling on the tail of its elder, a quartet of elephants dancing, etc.). Nichol (Beethoven Lives Upstairs) strings the quaint vignettes together alphabetically, using a first name she has assigned to each elephant. She acknowledges the artifice with a wink, as when she introduces Kay, on a picnic—"She's brought along some guests, and it's convenient, you'll agree:/ Her friends go by initials, which are L.M.N.O.P." The author's tone and syntax reflect the Victorian flavor of the drawings, and the result is an aesthetic pleasure. Ages 4-8. (May )