Elmer by David McKee is a vibrant, funny tale with strong and positive messages. The patchwork and colourful Elmer the elephant is instantly recognisable and helps even very young children explore the idea that we are all the same, but different.
Elmer lives with a herd of elephants. They are all different shapes, sizes and ages but they are all the same colour.
But Elmer is different. He is a patchwork of beautiful and bold colours. Elmer is not “elephant colour”.
Elmer is the life and soul of the herd and the source of laughter, fun and games. But Elmer is conscious that he doesn’t look the same colour as all the other elephants. One morning he slips quietly away, through the jungle.
Elmer finds a bush covered in “elephant-colured” berries and he covers himself in the juice. Slowly, he covers his beautiful patchwork until he looks like any other elephant.
When Elmer returns to the herd no-one notices him. Something doesn’t feel right to Elmer. The elephants are being very serious, standing still and silent.
Emer raises his trunk and shouts “Booo!” and the other elephants leap and fall in shock and surprise. As they laugh the rain clouds burst and the rain washes the berry juice off Elmer’s skin.
Oh Elmer… It didn’t take you long to show your true colours.
The elephants decide this is Elmer’s biggest joke so far and to celebrate they decide that on Elmer’s Day all elephants must decorate themselves in bright colours and patterns and Elmer will decorate himself in “elephant colour”.
Elmer by David McKee always makes us laugh and smile. The illustrations are warm, friendly, colourful and bold and the text leaves lots of ideas open for discussion.
Here are some ideas or questions that you might want to use to start a discussion in your family. You know your family and which questions they are ready to tackle now and which can be left for another day:
- In what ways are all the elephants in the herd the same?
- In what ways are the elephants in the herd different?
- Elmer is a different colour to the other elephants but is he the same as the other elephants in any way?
- Is Elmer different to the other elephants in ways other than his colour?
- Why do you think Elmer is tired of being different? How can being different make you tired?
- Do you think that Elmer is happy when he is elephant coloured? Does it help Elmer to pretend to be something that he is not?
- When Elmer comes back to the herd he feels that something is wrong but when he looks around everything is the same? What is different that is making Elmer feel strange?
- What does it mean to show your “true colours”?
- Is it important to celebrate the differences between us, as well as the similarities?
- What do you think the world would be like if we were all exactly the same?
Crafts and activities for kids
Elmer by David McKee has strong and positive messages within an enjoyable and funny story. It is a great starting point to explore activities relating to diversity, multiculturalism, personal identity, individualism and friendship as well as colour and pattern.
Take a look at the Pinterest Board full of crafts and activities for kids or take a look at the activities below, to accompany reading the book:
Follow Kirsty Hornblow’s board Elmer by David McKee on Pinterest.
- Damson Lane ‘The Same but Different’ activity
- Buggy and Buddy Sponge Painted Elmer
- Pre School Play Milk Carton Elmer
- Little Bins for Little Hands Rainbow Sensory Bin
- The Craft Train Paper Roll Elephants
- The Learning Hive Elephant Biscuits
- Red Ted Art Handprint Elephants
- Home Schooling Mom to Mags Elephant Stompers
This is a really great animation of the book, which young children love…
And I can’t resist this opportunity for a bit of Glee with their versions of Cindy Lauper’s ‘True Colours’…