Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Big Elephant in the Room

Written and illustrated by Lane Smith

Hyperion Books, 2009

$16.99, ages 4-8

When a donkey asks his friend if they can talk about the big elephant in the room, the friend assumes he's speaking metaphorically and confesses all of the things he did behind the donkey's back but suspects he already knew about. Like the time he ate all of the ice cream in the freezer. And the time the he ran away and left the donkey with a bully.

The friend gets so carried away trying to predict which of the blunders the donkey is referring to that he doesn't give him a chance to finish what he's saying. Finally, after nearly every awkward gaffe is purged, the donkey interrupts with an exasperated, "No! No! No! I don't care about any of those things..," and points around the corner to an elephant watching cartoons in another room, "I was just asking about the big elephant in the room."

Adults will laugh at the double entendre. Of all the animals Smith could have chosen, he opted to have two donkeys, the Democratic Party symbols, talking about an elephant, the Republican Party mascot, just out of earshot.

This is one of those hilarious books that's as fun for adults to read as children. When I began it, I imagined Lane Smith nudging me in the ribs and teasing, "Come on, you know you have." And then I blushed, knowing all too well that he was right. Yes, -- on occasion -- I have avoided a subject that nobody wants to talk about, only to fret that it would one day bubble up. And as I admitted this to myself, I realized, this man is brilliant. He got me to squirm, then laugh myself silly -- all in the span of 32 pages.

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