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The Elephant and the Sea

Authored by Ed Vere
Illustrated by Ed Vere
Published by Penguin Random House Children's UK

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The latest of Ed Vere’s engaging picturebooks, The Elephant and the Sea, finds its inspiration from the rocky Cornish coast and in encounters with an old seafarer. Gabriel, the old elephant, is reminiscing about his youth. As a youngster he was fascinated by the local lifeboat, longing to join the crew, but he was too young and the crew told him to come back when he was older and stronger. He waited, read all about lifeboats and even practised rowing until he was big and strong enough, but there was a problem; he was too big to fit in the boat! Disappointed, but not daunted, Gabriel hatched a plan, hammering, sawing, painting all through the autumn into winter. It was a harsh winter and one day when the fishing fleet set out a storm broke, threatening to sink the boats and all the men. In an attempt to rescue them, the lifeboat set out but although the crew rowed staunchly, the giant sea was too strong and they lost hope of saving the fishermen… until there, amongst the crashing waves, was Gabriel in his home made boat, pulling strongly in spite of the storm and ingeniously bringing the fleet to shore.

There is so much to love about this book: the repeated ‘heave ho’ of the seamen; the animals in the harbour, mending nets and building boats; the lifeboat crew and Gabriel depicted in Ed Vere’s characteristic quirky style where somehow their eyes tell it all. Also, his use of colour bringing the fishing village to life: the sea glistens, the seasons change from golden summer to misty grey autumn and the wild dark sea swirls around the red sailed fishing fleet. But it is the detail that will fascinate readers from 3 years upwards; old Gabriel has a cat called Milou, and young Gabriel is depicted with a very small cat in his duffel coat pocket, or following him as he runs through the harbour, or sitting beside him as he gazes at the sea through his window. And the seagulls alone are worth following through the book as they echo the mood of every page in this delightful fable of determination and courage.