Erica’s Elephant by Sylvia Bishop is a debut to delight elephant lovers from 4 years up! We can’t wait to see what and who Sylvia creates next.
Our chosen book review this week must certainly coincide with World Elephant Day. In both fact and fiction, elephants are gentle, full of affection and extremely intelligent. So Erica’s Elephant was an absolute pleasure to review.
‘Erica Perkins has a challenge’.
When a confused elephant is delivered for Erica’s tenth birthday it poses an enormous problem. Where will she keep him? And how can she prevent animal authorities from discovering his whereabouts and, furthermore, whisking Erica’s Elephant away?
‘Being a very practical girl, Erica came up with a plan.’
Erica lives with her Uncle Jeff, her only family. That is to say, Erica lives alone while Uncle Jeff, an ornithologist, is travelling. As a result she is self-sufficient but when she is gifted an elephant she needs a plan to care of him too. And quickly.
‘The Elephant had tired himself out and was taking a nap. [Erica] left the food in his doorway and went back to bed with a book. Sometimes that is the best response to life.’
Erica’s response to life mirrors our own – knuckling down with a book is second nature! Filled with humour appealing to adults, early readers and pre-schoolers Erica’s Elephant is perfect family entertainment. The use of proper nouns enforces the humour: The Gaggle of people at the door wanting to view a Real Live Actual Elephant; Erica having a Right to the Elephant because he has been Left to her; and the upsetting matter of Being In Trouble.
Woven into this evocative tale are elephant facts aplenty, such as how many plants and litres of water make up its daily requirement? Erica must consequently boost the £30.42 she has available. She must also navigate the tiny terraced house alongside the largest creature on land, whose clumsiness and stagger are well directed.
‘However silly people might seem to you, it can be unwise to ignore them.’
The most dangerous type of villain is the one who first tries to befriend you. Stout over polka-dotted busybody Amy Avis is one such antagonist. But elephant advice issued by a passerby on the beach is really where Erica’s troubles begin. Just who exactly can she trust?
‘Erica had never been happier.’
The beautiful interplay between Erica and the Elephant is the real charm of this book – a joy from the outset. Their ability to instinctively understand the other is every child’s dream and certainly a writing skill not easy to master. With Uncle Jeff away, the Elephant fills a void in Erica’s life and a soulful friendship is forged. Similarly an unexpected friend also comes to light who stays in touch with Erica long after this story ends.
“Make some friends your own size. Children are complicated.”
Children love to read books where the main character fends for themselves without unnecessary intervention from grown-ups. Erica is such a girl who, despite her heart pounding when danger is imminent, manages to appear calm and focused. Quick-thinking, resourceful and plucky she may appear, but does she have what it takes to outwit the authorities and save her new friend from a life of miserable captivity?
A tronking triumph!
We interviewed author Sylvia Bishop’s agent Bryony Woods in a recent webinar. Bryony told us that when former Oxford graduate Sylvia’s submission arrived, she knew immediately she had to sign her. The enchanting manuscript required very little editing – an astonishing feat in today’s world of children’s publishing – and above all the voice drew Bryony in immediately.
Erica’s Elephant is packed with charm enhanced by gorgeous illustrations by Ashley King. With entirely dislikable antagonists, a very lovable Elephant and a formidable female heroine (who should never be underestimated) Erica’s Elephant is a Tronking triumph!