Written and Illustrated by Lane Smith
Disney Hyperion Books, 2009
Can we talk about the big elephant in the room?
The plot in a nutshell: A friend tries to guess what his friend wants to discuss
When his friend asks to talk about ‘big elephant in the room,’ the other friend first asks him if he means the big problem and without waiting for him to respond, immediately assumes that this is in regard to the fact that he ate all of the crunchy nut ice cream. He then wonders if it’s about him borrowing one of his video games. He continues guessing throughout the book, admitting to insulting his clothes, breaking his computer, abandoning him to a bully and many other not-so-nice things. Finally his friend points out that there’s a literal elephant in the room, watching television, and he was asking about that. Clearly rattled, he wants to talk about one of the things his friend has just confessed to and his friend offers him some ice cream.
Author/illustrator Lane Smith is a favorite of mine, but I have to admit that this one didn’t do much for me. I had two main issues with this book. First, the entire premise of the humor relies on familiarity with the phrase ‘the big elephant in the room’ which is not a phrase that many children know. Mr. Smith includes an explanation of the phrase on the acknowledgements page and I’m sure that any parents reading this book would take the opportunity to explain it, but it still seems like a book more aimed at parents than at kids. (When you have to explain the joke before you tell it, it kind of loses its punch.) Second, the confessing friend is not really a friend at all, when you consider the many things he owns up to. Some of these things seem to be played up for comedic purposes, although they are really pretty mean-spirited. The world has enough meanness in it and I hate to see this kind of behavior perpetuated as funny in any way in children’s media. I’m sure it’s all meant very tongue-in-cheek, but the humor wasn’t a sufficient payoff for me to justify the darker side. I’d recommend sticking to his other books.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that if a friend has too many things to confess to you, you might want to consider whether or not they’re actually your friend.