Bruce Robinson, , illus. by Sophie Windham. . Bloomsbury, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-58234-769-1

This endearing nonsense tale from a British husband-and-wife team concerns an unknown gray object found sitting in the village square. "Maybe it wants plugging in?" one villager says. "Look at that nozzle on him.... What's that for?" says another. Windham's (Unicorns! Unicorns!) cast resembles wooden dolls, with round heads and stiff hands—there's even a solemn king and queen—and they bustle about importantly as they work to solve the riddle of the thing's identity. The Train Driver decides the object is a railway engine and hitches it up to a train, but the mystery guest does not like coal—"I like buns and cakes." The timid pachyderm seems to press against the very edges of the illustrations, and swells to alarming proportions when the villagers try to use it to suck up garbage. Eric, "a little boy who was seven and three quarters and known locally for telling Tall Stories," saves the day. He brings the mystery to the Professor, prompting him to identify it as an elephant, which gratifies the villagers and greatly relieves their visitor. Windham's inventive and deadpan drawings provide the best moments. The combination of elephants and landscapes in which such animals are rarely seen—at rural British train stations, in libraries, drifting in oceans—will inspire grins in the most earnest listener. Robinson's British whimsy plus an elephant-sized imagination should earn this story a place at bedside tables on both sides of the Atlantic. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)