The Elephant Reviews

School Library Journal

Cover: The Elephant Author-Illustrator: Peter Carnavas Publisher: Pajama Press

“With kindness and caring, Olive seeks creative solutions to help both Grandad and Dad find healing and let go of their heavy companions….Sweet black line illustrations throughout the book complement the narrative and tone. VERDICT 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.”

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Kirkus Reviews

“A gentle story of depression and hope is told in this middle-grade Australian import….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.”

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A Mighty Girl

“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.”

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CM Magazine

“With The Elephant, Peter Carnavas has created a brilliant work of art, cunningly folded into the deceptively small package of a short illustrated novel for young readers aged seven through eleven. This joyful, hopeful exploration of family dynamics affected by grief and mental illness uses simple yet powerful symbolism to create a child-centered platform from which readers can identify and/or empathize with the characters. Anyone looking for effective ways to open discussions about mental illness with child readers – or to provide what will surely prove a highly effective support resource – will welcome The Elephant with immense gratitude….

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.

This book is also exceptionally child-centred, showing genuine respect for children’s experiences, values, and capabilities. In particular, the use of symbolism provides a developmentally appropriate metaphor for how depression might seem to a young child….The Elephant is 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.”
Michelle Superle

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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!”

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Youth Services Book Review

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

What did you like about the book? …The story is lovingly illustrated with drawings throughout….A beautiful story beautifully told….

To whom would you recommend this book? Those who liked The Runaways by Ulf Stark or who like the Dani stories by Rose Lagercrantz would likely enjoy this sweet story….

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our ‘to read’ piles? Yes.”
—Katrina Yurenka

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Kids Make Mess

The Elephant is a great book for a lot of reasons. From a structural standpoint, it helps ease young readers into the novel format. The chapters are clearly separated and digestible in size, and the text is sophisticated enough to keep kids intrigued while remaining at a level they can understand and enjoy. Thematically, The Elephant deals with issues of loss and depression without getting too heavy. The death of Olive’s mother is never explicitly explained, but as Olive and her family deal with their grief, certain details are revealed and Olive is forced to confront her own feelings. Ultimately, she learns a lot about life, loss, and love. Great for kids 7+.”

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Christina Ammirati

“Exquisite, moving, and utterly unforgettable, THE ELEPHANT (3/17/20 from @pajamapressbooks) is award-winning picture book author, Peter Carnavas’ middle grade debut. With short chapters and charming, fine lined and shaded illustrations, Carnavas tells the story of Olive, her dad, granddad, and one unwelcome guest…a big, gray elephant. This unique metaphor is a poignant and clever way to describe her father’s big, heavy sadness that has followed him around for as long as Olive can remember….I absolutely loved this darling story and it’s tender approach in dealing with loss, depression, and despair. You’ll need your tissues for this one, perhaps multiple times, but the warm message of love, family, and moving forward together will ultimately warm your heart.”

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Mr. Alex’s Bookshelf

“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. Anyone that has spent any time around children knows that they are natural empaths. They pick up everything around them. And Carnavas, a former primary teacher, seizes on their natural abilities to illustrate how children can see much more than they let on.

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. He provides sufficient detail to tell the story, but does not bog it down to the point where a child would lose interest. Don’t get me wrong. Even this adult shed a few tears. The story is ripe with emotion and pathos. You will cheer for Olive in her triumphs and despair in her setbacks. Until finally, everyone is healed.

…Carnavas’ The Elephant provides a kind, tender and sympathetic way of introducing issues like death, depression and other elephants that can fill a room.”

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Kiss the Book Jr.

“The imagery and simple, child view of this story are amazing. I love how Carnavas illustrates sadness and happiness in a clear and uncomplicated way….Olive is an inspiring girl, and I found the charming illustrations to be the perfect complement to her story.”
—Carolina Herdegen

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Canadian Bookworm

“This is a great book to help kids understand when someone in their lives is struggling with depression. The use of the various animals brings the idea of depression to life in a physical way, and the way people work together to make things better for everyone shows that there is often a way forward past the depression.

The illustrations for this book are simple, yet show so much. From the jacaranda tree that Olive loves to sit in to think, to Olive, Arthur, her teacher, her dad, and her granddad, to the grey animals (especially the elephant with its tiny black top hat) and the various objects that play a role, the line drawings bring the story to life for young readers.

I loved it.”

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Jill Jemmett

Rating: ★★★★★

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. This was a creative way to teach children about mental health. It also shows that sometimes you need others to help you get rid of the elephant.

I loved this book!”

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Kids BookBuzz

“We rated this book: 5/5…

This was was an interesting story. I like how Olive sees imaginary animals whenever people are sad. This is a sweet story, but also sad sometimes….It is a good read-out-loud book.”
—Madie, Age 6

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