"All the lightness fell away as thought about the elephant.
The big grey elephant that shadowed her father.
It hung over him at breakfast.
It trudged beside him when he left for work.
At night, it lay by his side, weighing everything down."
The presence of this elephant means her dad is sad. He cannot talk to Olive or really listen to her. He has promised to fix her bike - the bike that once belonged to her mum - but so far he has not even started to repair it. Olive needs to get rid of this elephant - but how?
She confides in her best friend - Arthur. He is a very wise boy.
"Your dad won't fix your bike - until you fix your dad.' ... 'How do I do that?' 'Easy,' said Arthur ... 'Get rid of the elephant.' She laughed because she suddenly realised three important things :
Arthur was weird.
Arthur was right.
Arthur was the best friend in the world."
Meanwhile at school the class are working on a project to celebrate the 100th birthday of their school. The children have to bring old things to school, prepare a talk and then share their old things at the end of term birthday party. Olive talks to her Grandad and he shows her some wonderful old things - a typewriter and a record player but these are not quite right for Olive.
Grandad is the person who is keeping Olive's family afloat. He has restored the wild garden, he cooks delicious food, he tucks her in each evening and every day he picks Olive up for school. If he is carrying his purple backpack she knows they will be setting off on a small adventure. I love the idea of this purple backpack and also the way this pair mark distances by singing "Side by Side". For example when they walk to the gassy hill beside the oval it takes five renditions of the song to reach the right spot.
This book is so very special. It reminded me of the quiet wisdom found in Tishkin Silk and the whole Silk series. I sat down to read a few pages of The Elephant last night and lifted my head about an hour later having read the whole book. The final pages are very powerful and while you will be expecting Olive to succeed with the elephant issue I promise the ending will astonish you.
Here is the author web site with a perfect trailer for The Elephant. I will make a prediction that this book will surely be on our CBCA Short list for 2018 and when it does I recommend you have the whole school join in and sing Side by Side.
I would pair The elephant with any of these books :