The Elephant cover

By Peter Carnavas & Peter Carnavas

The Elephant

A jewel of a middle-grade novel about a resilient little girl who longs for her dad to break free from the elephant of his depression.

When Olive’s dad drags himself to work in the morning, the elephant goes with him. When he comes home again, so does the elephant. It’s always there, heavy and silent, casting a shadow of sadness over him. Olive knows it has been like this since her mother passed away when she was a year old, and she can’t stand to see her father burdened anymore. With help from her grandfather and her best friend Arthur, she hatches a plan to rid her family of the elephant once and for all.

Before long, she’ll learn that while happiness isn’t that simple, small things can move mountains—or elephants.

Award-winning author-illustrator Peter Carnavas portrays a child’s response to her father’s depression with naïve wisdom. In defiance of the looming grey presence, The Elephant is an intergenerational story of resilience, family, and hope.

Available In


Ages 7-12
ISBN: 978-1-77278-102-1
List Price: $19.95 CAD / $17.95 USD
Trim Size: 5.00 x 7.75 inches / 12.7 x 19.685cm
Pages: 176

Distributed in Canada by University of Toronto Press

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

Carton Quantity: 48

About this book

Awards and Honours

  • 2020 A Mighty Girl's 2020 Books of the Year (Commended) (United States)



Praise for The Elephant

A Mighty Girl’s 2020 Books of the Year

“A warm-hearted book of emotional learning, creative problem-solving, and genuine care for others. Recommended for anyone in need of hope for a path to happiness.”—School Library Journal

“Carnavas takes the tough topic of caregiver depression and gives it a delicate, graceful touch. His plot weaves tightly together, and the ending twist is a lovely completion. Black-and-white spot illustrations throughout give a visually accessible feel, as do the short chapters….A delicate, lovely story about caregiver depression that will validate and empower readers.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This sensitive illustrated chapter book explores a child’s response to a loved one’s depression, and how love and family can help people struggling with mental health.”—A Mighty Girl

“The warm, plain, rich written text is more than sufficient to mark The Elephant as excellent, but Carnavas’s playful, emotionally evocative line drawings catapult the work into the exceptional realm….[A] must-buy for everyone who knows anyone touched by mental health issues – which is everyone. This book belongs in every home, library and classroom. Highly Recommended.”—CM Magazine

The Elephant is an endearing, exceptional story about dealing with loss and supporting those involved. The relationships in the story are positive ones including the important way that Olive’s grandfather lovingly cares for his granddaughter’s needs during this difficult time. This heartwarming novel is the best book that I’ve read pertaining to loss. Highly recommended!”—

“Lovingly illustrated…beautifully told.”—Youth Services Book Review

The Elephant is a great book for a lot of reasons. From a structural standpoint, it helps ease young readers into the novel format….Thematically, The Elephant deals with issues of loss and depression without getting too heavy.”—Kids Make Mess

“Exquisite, moving, and utterly unforgettable…I absolutely loved this darling story and its tender approach in dealing with loss, depression, and despair.”—Christina Ammirati

“Carnavas, a gentle storyteller, tells the difficult tale of how depression and grief can affect those around us–how that grief becomes palpable and infects everything we do….Carnavas’ delicate style is particularly suited for Middle Grade novels as it allows readers to explore a difficult subject without enveloping them in the morass of emotions that would prevent them from processing the message….The Elephant provides a kind, tender and sympathetic way of introducing issues like death, depression and other elephants that can fill a room.”—Mr. Alex’s Bookshelf

“The imagery and simple, child view of this story are amazing….Olive is an inspiring girl, and I found the charming illustrations to be the perfect complement to her story.”—Kiss the Book Jr.

“This is a great book to help kids understand when someone in their lives is struggling with depression….The illustrations for this book are simple, yet show so much…[they] bring the story to life for young readers.”—Canadian Bookworm

“This story is a great metaphor for depression or mental health problems. Olive can physically see how her father’s depression is dragging him down, as if he has a giant elephant following him….I loved this book!”—Jill Jemmett

“We rated this book: 5/5…This is a sweet story, but also sad sometimes….It is a good read-out-loud book.”—Kids BookBuzz, Madie, Age 6


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Additional Resources

Teaching Guide

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