Books to Engage the Young Reader: Elmer

David McKee's 1989 picture book 'Elmer' is the first in an extensive series of stories about a patchwork elephant who has many adventures. 'Elmer' is well-suited to reading aloud with your child and it can act as an excellent source for engaging your child in thoughtful discussions.

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About the Story

Elmer tells the story of an elephant who is different from all of his peers. While they are all a uniform gray, Elmer is a patchwork of myriad colors. Elmer is known for making the other elephants laugh through a variety of jokes and games, but Elmer himself isn't happy.

Elmer's patchwork coloring, he thinks, make the other elephants laugh at him. This leads Elmer to abandon his herd and travel through the jungle until he finds a bush full of elephant-colored berries. He shakes the bush and rolls in the berries until their juices turn him gray.

When he returns to his herd, no one recognizes him. Elmer realizes that the elephants are still and serious. Elmer, trying to break the heavy mood, shouts, 'Boo!' and surprises the elephants. They laugh and laugh and, while they're enjoying the joke, rain begins to fall and washes away Elmer's disguise. They're so thankful to have Elmer back that they create a holiday in his honor, during which all the other elephants decorate themselves like Elmer.

Elmer David McKee

Ideal for Reading Aloud

Elmer is an enjoyable read aloud book for children of all ages. The illustrations are colorful and lively, particularly with Elmer's patchwork design. His body is covered with patches of red, blue, yellow and numerous other colors. The squares also form an interesting and unusual pattern for an elephant. Additionally, the final illustration of Elmer's herd in full decoration is sure to fascinate your child.

Engaging Your Child

Elmer is different from the other elephants and, because of his patchwork coloring, feels unwelcome. This provides a good opportunity to talk about diversity with your child. This may include diversity in terms of skin color or any other difference that may cause children or adults to treat people differently.

In the story, Elmer thinks the other elephants are laughing at him because he's different, even though that's not the truth. Discuss with your child how such misunderstandings can be hurtful. Just as Elmer has a happy ending that celebrates diversity, your child can learn the importance of appreciating differences and treating others with respect.

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