The Big Elephant in the Room

Overview

When one donkey tells his friend that they need to talk about "the big elephant in the room," his friend wonders what this embarrassing issue could possibly be.

Is it that fact that he ate all the crunchy nut ice cream? Is it that he picked his friend last for soccer... and baseball, and volleyball? Is it the "going in the pool" incident?

Or is it none of those things at all?...

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Overview

When one donkey tells his friend that they need to talk about "the big elephant in the room," his friend wonders what this embarrassing issue could possibly be.

Is it that fact that he ate all the crunchy nut ice cream? Is it that he picked his friend last for soccer... and baseball, and volleyball? Is it the "going in the pool" incident?

Or is it none of those things at all?

With hilarious artwork and clever wordplay, Lane Smith demonstrates just how BIG a problem a simple verbal misunderstanding can become.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this droll parade of embarrassments, a nerdy donkey in glasses and a bow tie asks his pal to discuss “the big elephant” in the room. “I was expecting this!” his buddy screeches defensively. But he isn't quite sure which humiliation to address, going into a litany of grade-school goofs that Smith (Madam President) pictures in blush-inducing detail. “Is the big elephant your video game? I was going to return that! Eventually,” he says. “Is the big elephant that you laughed so hard you peed your pants? Is [it] that I told Haley you laughed so hard you peed your pants?” Smith times the gags to perfection, slowly at first and then several to a page: “the super glue 'accident' ” shows the unfortunate donkey stuck to a chair, and “the talent show mishap” pictures his clothes flying off his body during his friend's magic trick. Smith concludes with a smirk—a literal pachyderm is watching TV around the corner (“Oh, that big elephant! That's Stanley”). With these two donkeys, if the big elephant is in doubt, the identity of the big jackass is crystal clear. Ages 3–7. (July)
Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
Take an idiom, one guilty conscience, and multiple confessions, shake them up, and serve for hilarious results as two friends portrayed as donkeys talk about "the elephant in the room." The story simply starts as one friend approaches his pal to talk about "the big elephant in the room." For those readers not familiar with the idiom, the friend responds by inferring and connecting "the big elephant" to meaning "the big problem" that is being ignored. He immediately begins to confess to a multitude of incidents that weigh on his conscience. The guilty party's confession list is long. He admits to consuming all of the crunchy-nut ice cream, giving false compliments, telling about his friend wetting his pants, and more. The pictures support and provide additional information and details to the plot which moves with the dialogue, mainly the confession. The comical illustrations are flashbacks to the embarrassing moments that grow until the climax of the story is reached. The ending has equally hilarious results. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4—Two delightfully childlike donkeys star in this laugh-out-loud opus from the master of kid-companionable humor. When one friend says, "Can we talk about the big elephant in the room?" his buddy assumes that he's using a figure of speech to refer to an embarrassing incident ("'The Big Elephant? As in 'the BIG problem?'"). What follows is a stream of uproariously funny confessions and overwrought explanations, as the guilty friend tries to deduce just which indignity he should apologize for. Was it because he ate all the dessert? ("But what if you had a nut allergy, what then?...Yes! I forced down that creamy, nutty, crunch ice cream…to save your life!") Because he picked his pal last for soccer? ("…and baseball? and volleyball? and tiddlywinks?") Because he told Haley about the time "…you laughed so hard you peed your pants?" The list continues until the anticipated punch line: there really is a big elephant in the room (and he's eating crunchy-nut ice cream). Done in muted tones, the droll artwork tells much of the story through lively layouts and funny details. With the roll of an eye or the flick of an ear, the animals convey a range of emotions. In keeping with their characters, the questioner is identifiable by his large glasses and mustard-colored polka-dotted bowtie, while his smooth-talking chum sports a trendier look. A variety of text fonts and sizes adds to the fun. Kids will get a kick out of this book (while also learning about idioms).—Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
Well-known for now-classic works such as The Stinky Cheese Man and newer titles like John, Paul, George & Ben (2006), Smith has to stretch to fulfill his fans' outsized expectations. While the "big elephant" really is big (he practically fills the living room), his story doesn't quite reach the creative heights readers will be anticipating. Essentially this is the tale of two donkey friends (though one really is a bit of an ass). When asked by his friend about the (unseen) big elephant, the narrator runs through a litany of misunderstandings, missteps and outright unkindnesses that he believes his friend might be referring to. Frenetic illustrations in muted neutrals show the various situations, clearly meant to be hilariously reprehensible but mostly appearing mean-spirited instead. The ultimate joke, on readers as well as the narrator, is that the opening question was literal. The revelation of the (real) big elephant is amusing but not enough to save this one-note story, the joke of which will have to be explained to many a child. Ardent fans won't mind-but this could have been better. (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423116677
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 7/7/2009
  • Pages: 32
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 10.74 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Lane Smith has received countless honors and awards for his children's books, including his memorable collaborations with Jon Scieszka, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, and Math Curse. His 2006 Disney Hyperion book, John, Paul, George & Ben, was a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, and Child Magazine and Parenting Magazine Best Book of the Year. Lane lives in Connecticut.
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