A MAMMOTH IN THE FRIDGE :: a quick and quirky story with a twist at the end

Age guide: 2 - 10

When I was a (somewhat opinionated) child, my grandmother liked to remind me that “discretion is the better part of valour.” She meant, of course, that sometimes I would be more likely to win the battle if I just quietly went about my business instead of loudly insisting on immediate justice.

There’s a little girl in this story who completely understands! 

Her family is frantically running around getting rid of the mammoth that appeared in their fridge, apparently out of nowhere, while Elsa watches, worries a little and waits. 

She’s a determined girl though and very capable, so once the family and the fire brigade have left the mammoth in a leafy tree (because ‘We could be here till autumn’ and ‘It’s not our problem’), Elsa goes back to retrieve the mammoth – who turns out to be part of her mythical menagerie.

It’s an unexpected and funny ending to an engaging and quirky book.

 

One of the things that make this book great is Elsa’s role – she looks like a secondary character until the very end, when it turns out the story was really about her all along. A nice lesson about the importance of noticing people.

Other things to appreciate:

The family calls the ‘fire brigade’ rather than ‘firemen’.   

All the language is conversation – no descriptors or narration whatsoever. Great for learning about language and a whole lot of fun to read aloud since different tones or voices are called for. (Or, if playing with voices is not your thing, just point to the characters as you read their lines.)

The illustrations have a hip and friendly vibe – there are just a few colors and plenty of lines, which are brilliantly employed to lend all sorts of emotion to each character. The expressions on Elsa’s face are especially endearing.

There’s a nice conversation to be had about why the Dad says ‘it’s not our problem’ and whether that is true. And a follow-up conversation about secrets and when it’s okay to not tell something. (That’s an important conversation but one that really isn’t the main point of this story.)

There's a page with the words “Wheee-ooo!” running the whole width – fun to say and great for pre-readers.

It would work well as part of cluster of stories dealing with discrimination – the fire brigade and the family overlook the mammoth’s potential as a pet because of their pre-conditioned responses.

 

Every once in a while, I discover that I’ve been buying up books by a particular author without even noticing – three of Michael Escoffier’s books have joined our library recently. A Mammoth in the Fridge, Take Away the A (mentioned in this post) and Me First!  They’re all great.

If you'd like to add some of his marvellous books to your own library, you’ll find a bunch of them here. It could be fun to have matching copies in English and French to compare and polish your French!

A MAMMOTH IN THE FRIDGE was written by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Matthieu Maudet
Publisher Gecko Press, NZ, 2012
Names in this book: Noah, Elsa

 

PS  If you have “A Fish Out of Water” memorised because you’ve read it so often and you’re ready for something fresh – and shorter – this could be the book for you. It has a similar feel and humour to it and it’s way quicker to read.

MY COUNTRY :: a favourite poem (that earned me $5 when I was young.)

MY COUNTRY :: a favourite poem (that earned me $5 when I was young.)

My Country gave us the quintessential Australian phrase: “I love a sunburnt country.”

This beautifully illustrated version of the famous poem is a favourite at our house - the images are so in keeping with our personal experience of Australia.

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ALPHABET BOOKS :: certainty, surprise and delight for babies through to grownups

ALPHABET BOOKS :: certainty, surprise and delight for babies through to grownups

I really love alphabet books, it's the certainty coupled with surprise I think. The certainty of knowing what comes next – D follows C every time – and the delight of the surprising way each book treats the letters.

Some alphabet books are simple enough to make a game of singing the song and turning the pages quickly enough to keep up. (Animal ABC - with an animal on each page - is great for that, but it’s trickier than it sounds, that LMNOP part is quick!)

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WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR? :: a lovely look into a child’s fondest Christmas dreams

WHAT DO YOU WISH FOR? :: a lovely look into a child’s fondest Christmas dreams

Age guide:  2 – 8.

This is a book overflowing with Christmas goodness. Everything that makes up a perfect, simple and nostalgic Christmas is there – a community party, a children’s Christmas play, wishes and hopes and fond memories, family and food, long summer nights.

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FLIGHT :: sobering and ponderous and breathtaking

FLIGHT :: sobering and ponderous and breathtaking

Age guide: 8 and up.  This is a truly remarkable book – the sort that makes you gasp and know that it needs to be in your house, on your table and hopefully in the hearts of your family.

It’s a refugee story – and perhaps a Christmas fable. 

There’s a mother and a baby, a father and a donkey. They’re fleeing the authorities through a dark and dismal desert. 

They’re hoping for God’s blessings and they’re following a star. But then …. There are rocket flares, and tanks. And finally a refugee camp.

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PERFECT :: an ode to childhood, long days and the wonders of the commonplace

PERFECT :: an ode to childhood, long days and the wonders of the commonplace

Ages newborn to 7 and then again for adults

Is there a more fondly held wish for a parent than that their child will have a perfect day? 

A day of simple, stretching pleasures …

the kind of day that goes unnoticed but shapes the child in lasting and important ways? 

PERFECT is the story of that kind of day.

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ALL IN A DAY :: a 'with love' book that invites us to appreciate the day and to live it fully

ALL IN A DAY ::  a 'with love' book that invites us to appreciate the day and to live it fully

Age guide: toddler to grownup.  I bought this picture book just for me, without hesitation. It's full of sentiment but not sentimental and the words are profoundly simple. The illustrations are not too shabby either. (Read that as 'they're stunning!')

Here's how it starts:

"A day is a perfect piece of time
to live a life, to plant a seed,
to watch the sun go by.

A day starts early, work to do, beneath a brand-new sky.

A day brings hope -

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THE WONDER :: celebrating imagination and the power of questions

THE WONDER :: celebrating imagination and the power of questions

"We are perishing for want of wonder not for want of wonders." - GK Chesterton

Age guide: 3 - 9.  Here is a little fellow whose ‘head is filled with wonder.’ He’s great at noticing the wonders in his world, things like birds flying, clouds, and stars. He’s great at asking question too, like ‘what the best playground in the world might be like.’  He’s a boy who is not perishing for want of wonder. 

But he is constantly told to move on

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CHRISTMAS LIST 04 :: 5 stories to read aloud and linger over

CHRISTMAS LIST 04 :: 5 stories to read aloud and linger over

Christmas for me is all about long days, warm nights, outside play in the dark, a bath or a swim and then a chapter or two of a story read aloud to the whole family. 

Then there's the summer camping trip where a read-aloud book after dinner is essential!

Or, rainy days when it’s thundering and pouring for a whole day which require a play in the rain and an ice-block and still leave time for a few more pages.

All of which means that Christmas stories full of snow and fur lined coats feel almost surreal. But we love them anyway and today's selection are good for both hemispheres.

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CHRISTMAS LIST 03 :: a little bit of history enhances every celebration (5 books)

CHRISTMAS LIST 03 :: a little bit of history enhances every celebration (5 books)

History connects us with times past, helps us feel grateful for present moments and, with the right telling, it can give us hope for the future.

Here's a sampling of (five) Christmas history stories that my family likes, maybe you'll enjoy them also:

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