cover image Elephant Island

Elephant Island

Leo Timmers, trans. from the Dutch by James Brown. Gecko, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-77657-434-6

When a “boisterous wave” sinks Arnold the elephant’s boat—the stormy sea is rendered in almost palpably rough dark brushstrokes—he’s stranded on a tiny rock barely the size of his foot. But though several seafaring animals offer to rescue him, each boat is swamped as soon as the pachyderm steps aboard. No matter: like Timmers (Monkey on the Run), Arnold proves a gifted and deeply silly engineer. Salvaging the wreckage, the elephant rigs up an increasingly elaborate, improbable structure atop the diminutive rock, transforming it into a multilevel affair on which the group dances under a starry blue sky and “all night long sang whale songs.” As is true for any trend-setting spot, “Soon everyone was setting course for Elephant Island,” with each new animal deliberately contributing its respective vessel to create a towering attraction—complete with a waffle maker—that’s portrayed with subtle sculptural dimensionality. When a second squall gives everyone the chance to head home, the group demurs; it’s a picture book tribute to the power of collective, constructive play, and to heeding the call of freedom. Ages 3–6. (Mar.)