Author & Illustrator: Peter Carnavas
Ages: 7-12; Middle Grade
Grandad rubs out the gray parts of my day and fills them in with color.
The pain of losing a loved-one weighs like a heavy presence on those that are left behind. Death, is hard on the living. Thoughts of what was, what is and what could have been loom everywhere. The proverbial elephant in the room lumbers about, its presence felt, knocking things in its path. Carnavas, in his book The Elephant, a Middle Grade novel just recently released in North America, explores what happens when a young girl starts seeing an elephant hanging around her Dad, as he deals with the death of her mother, his wife.
After her Mother died when she was a year old, Olive remained in the care of her Father and Grandfather. Now attending primary school, Olive can sense when the adults around her are feeling blue. Her perceptions take on the form of imaginary animals. Realizing that her Father (and to some extent her Grandfather) are feeling depressed, Olive does what she can to help them feel better. Aided by her trusty friend Arthur, and with her constant companion Freddie (her dog) at her side, she sets forth on her mission: to make Dad’s elephant leave.
‘Grandad,” she said.
‘Sometimes I see animals. Big, gray animals. But they’re not real.’
He didn’t flinch. He kept walking as if she had said something quite ordinary about school or dinner.
Carnavas, a gentle storyteller, tells the difficult tale of how depression and grief can affect those around us–how that grief becomes palpable and infects everything we do. Anyone that has spent any time around children knows that they are natural empaths. They pick up everything around them. And Carnavas, a former primary teacher, seizes on their natural abilities to illustrate how children can see much more than they let on.
Carnavas’ delicate style is particularly suited for Middle Grade novels as it allows readers to explore a difficult subject without enveloping them in the morass of emotions that would prevent them from processing the message. He provides sufficient detail to tell the story, but does not bog it down to the point where a child would lose interest. Don’t get me wrong. Even this adult shed a few tears. The story is ripe with emotion and pathos. You will cheer for Olive in her triumphs and despair in her setbacks. Until finally, everyone is healed.
For those ages seven to ten-years-old and beyond, Carnavas’ The Elephant provides a kind, tender and sympathetic way of introducing issues like death, depression and other elephants that can fill a room.
More books for this Age Group can be found here.
Here is the book trailer for the 2017 Edition of the book:
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My thanks to Pajama Press for providing a complimentary copy of this book. The views expressed herein are my own.
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