The Thingamabob

The Thingamabob

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by Il Sung Na

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One day, he found the thingamabob.

He had no idea what it was or where it came from. . . .

So begins the story of a curious elephant and a mysterious red object. But what is it?! When none of his friends can tell him, the little elephant decides to experiment. He thinks: Maybe I can fly with it? (Maybe not.) Maybe I can sail in it? (Maybe not.) Maybe

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One day, he found the thingamabob.

He had no idea what it was or where it came from. . . .

So begins the story of a curious elephant and a mysterious red object. But what is it?! When none of his friends can tell him, the little elephant decides to experiment. He thinks: Maybe I can fly with it? (Maybe not.) Maybe I can sail in it? (Maybe not.) Maybe I can hide behind it? (Maybe not.) Nothing seems to work, until big drops of rain begin to fall. The little elephant does not want to get wet. Luckily, with the thingamabob (an umbrella), he does not need to get wet!

With bright, adorable illustrations and a simple, playful text, Il Sung Na captures the excitement of making—and sharing—an unexpected discovery.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
When our elephant hero finds the thingamabob, he has no idea what it is. Part of the fun of the story for the reader is that it is obvious to us from the cover and the attractive parade across the endpapers that it is an umbrella. None of his animal friends can tell him what it is either. As he tries this or that with it, it gives him a surprise as it takes off into the air. He finds that he cannot fly nor sail with it, however. As he angrily demands to know what it is, rain begins to fall. And its use becomes obvious at last. A rather abstract white elephant resting on the front cover is confronted by a bright red umbrella stiffly vertical in front of him. On the title page the elephant eagerly observes the open umbrella, now at a distance. There is perhaps some philosophical meaning in all this. There is, however, no denying the impact of the bold design and the unusual placement of the appealing characters in the illustrations, "...created by combining painterly textures with digitally generated layers, ...then compiled in Adobe Photoshop." There is a happy ending for all under the umbrella with a brilliantly precise rainbow as backdrop. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Publishers Weekly
Splayed flat on the ground, ears outstretched, a young elephant ponders a long, pointed object with a curved handle. “He had no idea what the thingamabob was or where it came from.” Young readers will know, though—it’s an umbrella! Four tiny vignettes show the elephant playing with the red umbrella the way a kitten might play with a paper bag, lifting it high with his trunk, then burying his whole head in it. He tries out the umbrella as a parachute, then as a boat. “Maybe I can sail in it?” he ventures; he sinks instantly: “Maybe not.” Na’s (A Book of Sleep) elephant, despite his size, is delicate as a china plate. He has fetching eyelashes, rosy cheeks, and fine curlicue decorations that add to his charm. His umbrella experiments take place against a placid but complex backdrop of paper textures and paint surfaces; his friends (unhelpful in the ID department) are also delicately decorated with slender lines. A sudden rainfall solves the problem in this celebration of curiosity and perception. Ages 2–5. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
A bright-eyed elephant finds a "thingamabob," and curiosity sets in. Enchanted by the new toy-a cherry-red umbrella-he begins to explore its possibilities. Just when the agreeable creature seems most mystified by the enigmatic object, raindrops begin to fall from the sky. Post-epiphany, the elephant is cheery and dry; snuggly friends and a vibrant rainbow complete the sugary-sweet picture of trunked-out bliss. A repetitive punch line to the elephant's silly exploits will have readers happily anticipating the big-eared mammal's next move; and those who adore all things super-kawaii-cute will fall for the the spherical elephant flying and flailing with his umbrella. Na's drawings, colored with a collage of digitally manipulated textures, are suggestive of late-'80s or early-'90s decorative-art painting, with textures defined and consistent. Unfortunately, while the umbrella is supposed to save the animals, the rain never appears to reach them once the elephant has discovered its value. Distant clouds and drops play enticingly far away; thus, the narrative is abandoned for a design aesthetic that at times is overly cerebral. Despite inconsistencies, an enjoyable read aloud. (Picture book. 2-5)
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—Intriguing artwork, worthy of close study, delicately illustrates this simple tale of an elephant that encounters a puzzling, inanimate object—a bright red umbrella. Not having the faintest idea what it is or its purpose, the pink-cheeked animal examines it, asking friends if they have any ideas. Experimentation helps to rule out what the "thingamabob" isn't. The pachyderm's gently humorous attempts at sailing it, flying with it, and, especially, hiding behind it will elicit smiles. When there's a small cloudburst, he finally figures out its function, understanding that he and his friends can stay dry together. The illustrations have the same captivating quality as those in the artist's A Book of Sleep (Knopf, 2009) and are made "by combining handmade painterly textures with digitally generated layers," then compiled in Photoshop. Use this title along with Antoinette Portis's Not a Stick (HarperCollins, 2008) for a storytime about using the imagination. Charming.—Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
3 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Originally from Korea, Il Sung Na studied illustration at Kingston University and now lives in London, where it always rains and where he always carries a thingamabob. To learn more about him and his work, please visit

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The Thingamabob 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
carololga More than 1 year ago
My 20 month old grandson choses The Thingsmabob every time we read together. He loves the myriad of umbrellas on the end papers. He always choses a different favorite. How the elephant uses the umbrella makes him laugh.