This wonderful picture book was first published 25 years ago and now a modern classic. It tells the story of Elmer, a patchwork elephant living amongst a herd of ordinary elephants. He is popular, makes all the other elephants laugh and is well known in the jungle. But Elmer gets fed up with being the odd one out and decides he wants to blend in. He finds a way to look just like the other elephants. but this proves not to be such a good idea…
Share the story
As you read the story aloud to your child allow time to pause and talk about what is happening in the story and the pictures.
When you return to the story children might enjoy joining in with parts of it, for example the page which describes Elmer, when the jungle animals greet him or when he makes the herd jump by shouting ‘BOOO!’
Talk about the story
Things you might talk about include:
What your child likes about the book and anything they wonder about
All the colours they can see on Elmer
Why Elmer wants to change colour
Why the other elephants are so serious without him.
You could also talk about what your child knows about elephants – name parts of their body including trunk and tusk. What would they like to find out?
Watch the story
Tell the story
Once your child has heard the story a few times they could tell the story to you using the pictures to guide them.
Things to make and do
Do some counting
Count the number of elephants on some of the pages together. Which page has the most elephants? Which page has the least?
Make Elmer’s world.
With your child helping fill a large tray with damp soil, and collect plants leaves, grasses and twigs to place in it. If you have plastic toy animals you could place them in the tray. Perhaps you could add colour sticky squares or dots to a plastic elephant to be Elmer. Children could tell the story of Elmer or make up their own stories.
Write a message for Elmer
Use the message template and help your child write a message to Elmer from the other elephants. Talk about what they might want to say to him letting them choose their own message. Children might want to say for example that they like him just the way he is or that they find him really funny.
Design a colourful elephant
Decorate an elephant like the ones joining in the Elmer parade. If you make several you could cut them out and hang them on a string suspended across a wall or ceiling to create a line of elephants on parade. Click here for an elephant template to colour.
Make a patchwork picture Cut out coloured squares from a magazine for your child (or help them to cut out or tear their own). Arrange the coloured squares in a a patchwork design and stick on a sheet of paper.
Find out more
Find out more about elephants
You could watch part of this video together and talk about it.
Find out about animal colours
You could talk about why elephants are grey and find out about animal camouflage
Read more books by David McKee.
Other Elmer books include:Elmer’s Colours, Elmer’s Friends, Elmer’s Day, Elmer and the Rainbow
David McKee has also written and illustrated many other popular books; titles include:* Not Now Bernard, Two Monsters, King Rollo, Mr Benn
Parents might be interested to read some background to Elmer in this article.