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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
by Maria Elena Walsh
Age Range: 9-11
An Elephantasy is an extraordinary surreal story in the nonsense genre reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland or Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio. When an elephant called Dalian Kafki turns up unexpectedly at the door of the female narrator and her family, she feels she has no choice but to adopt him despite the obvious complications. However, the adventure is only just beginning.
Set in reality, but where fantastical and daft things happen there is much nonsense and wordplay within the text. From the moment Dalian Kafki becomes ill and ends up at the top of a very tall tree all manner of silliness kicks in – stamps that keep coming unstuck; a flying elephant partial to oat soup; a pop-up forest, just like a pop-up book that folds away; chocolate mud; a live scoring football and a room made of sponge cake, chocolate, sugar icing and sweets to name but a few. Then there are the larger-than-life characters of Auntie Clodomira with her killer umbrella or the grumpy Dwarf Carozo, Granddad with his military precision to the ridiculous Government officials, perhaps an acerbic critique of the Argentine regime, and a Fireman who only speaks in rhyme – "To find a lonely elephant who's missing in the wood, you need a lot of patience and your senses must be good"
Argentinian author Mariá Elena Walsh (1930 – 2011) was a poet, novelist, musician, playwright, writer and composer who was mainly known for her songs and books for children. Walsh was an outspoken critic of the military dictatorship in Argentina with one of the songs she wrote becoming a civil rights anthem.
Walsh addresses the reader directly inviting them to partake of the nonsense and award-winning translator Daniel Hahn has provided a sharp, sparkling translation. The amusing black and white illustrations by Aurora Cacciapuoti also add to the fun. Featured in the 1001 children's books you must read before you grow up, this international bestseller is a true delight.