Picture Book Snob
Why we love The Elephant Detectives by Ged Adamson
Published by Nosy Crow, 7th July 2022
It was the 'perfect kind of day' until Alan lost his elephant. Despite their size, elephants can actually be really hard to find. A chance encounter with an 'elephant detective' called Edie leads to a trail of discovery which starts in the library, like all the best adventures. By the end of the story, Alan has found a new friend as well as an elephant.
The Elephant Detectives is amazing and it's hard to know where to begin when explaining why. Perhaps it's because we're around the same age, but there's something about Ged Adamson's artwork that recalls my own childhood. Not my actual experiences but the landscape of the TV shows and cartoons that I grew up with. I get Snoopy and Sesame Street vibes from his illustrations which makes them so comforting as well as beautiful to look at.
Like all books illustrated by Ged, there's a gorgeous, gentle but striking colour palette and the images have lots going on in the background. We're especially fond of the museum scene where a priceless piece of pottery is placed in peril by a poser. The first time we read The Elephant Detectives, my youngest said, 'Mama, I have to show you this,' and pointed at alady about to shatter a Ming Dynasty-era artefact. I suspect this clumsy character reminded her of me. In the same spread, a pair of legs protrudes from the chimney of a steam engine. My five-year-old says that the owner of the legs is a little boy who was 'throwed in there' after 'breaking lots of stuff' (she says the lady in green is next). It's brilliant how a museum visitor contemplates 'ye olde' phone box and the determined expression of the security guard who has presumably walked right past Alan's elephant without noticing him.
The chip exhibit is excellent too! I really want to visit Doughnut Kingdom and the shopfront Ged designs is exquisite. The duck pond is another great location with lots going on including a snoozing sailor, swimming dogs, a rescue attempt for a football and a fish that resembles a shark. The biker cautiously glancing at the pirate-girl is another wonderful touch and my kids enjoy making up back stories for everyone there.
We also love the library and were delighted to spot This is NOT a Unicorn! among the books there, but every single page is wonderful. AND what's even more fantastic about this book is that Alan's elephant is in every scene, undetected by Alan and Edie. My girls absolutely love this aspect and the elephant's antics always make them laugh out loud. It's a wonderful narrative device that's always popular with little readers, who feel like they are being let in on a private joke, but it can be difficult to get right. Ged manages this masterfully and it makes the story so much fun, especially as watching the elephant enjoy his own day out is so amusing. It's hard to choose a favourite part of the elephant's own excursion, but I'm particularly partial to seeing an elephant crammed into a cable car. It's extremely entertaining to see him munching popcorn while squashed into a cinema seat and somehow managing to stay afloat in a peddle boat. The power of suggestion works really well when we see the elephant carrying a ladder. We don't see him climb the ladder but still; you're thinking about that when you see him with it!
There's plenty of humour in the dialogue too. I love when Edie tells Alan that lost elephants are 'her business' and when she tells him there's 'no time for chat' as he attempts to introduce himself. The large lettering used to emphasise certain statements is really effective and my five-year-old like to 'read' these parts herself. She knows what they say from being familiar with the story and because of how the text is designed. It makes reading the story a more interactive and satisfying experience for her. She was really proud of herself when she first saw the 'quiet' poster in the library for the same reason. She said, I know what that says, 'Shhhh!'
The library's guide to elephants (by Eleanor 'Tusk'y)with its six important elephant facts is a fabulous detail too. This book gets bonus points for being diverse and inclusive and resisting gender stereotypes by featuring a female pirate as well as a girl-sleuth. Honourable to the endpapers - we've really enjoyed tracing the elephant's route through them. And I love how, even with all the detective work and comedy, this is essentially a story about friendship. Edie constantly repeats the phrase "lucky for you" throughout the story and it's so sweet when Alan responds with 'lucky for us" at the end.
Just like an elephant, you won't forget this uplifting and beautifully-illustrated adventure.
The Elephant Detectives is published today (7th July 2022) by Nosy Crow - see this book on the publisher's website As with all Nosy Crow picture books, this comes with a free 'Stories Aloud' digital audiobook. Thanks so much to Ged Adamson for kindly sending us a copy of his latest masterpiece - all opinions expressed are our own.