Written and Illustrated by Jerry Smath
Parents Magazine Press, 1979
Grandma Tildy lived all alone. She worked hard all day. She had no time to play.
The plot in a nutshell: A woman takes in lots of pets, but draws the line at elephants.
A pet salesman comes to Grandma Tildy’s door selling canaries and she buys one, but adds that she will not buy an elephant. The bird sings to Grandma Tildy and makes her happy. The salesman returns and sells her a beaver, who helps her cut firewood. He continues to come back with more animals for her and each one has a way to help her out. Each time, she insists that she will never want an elephant. As she’s preparing for winter, he shows up again, with just the elephant left and she refuses. But the elephant stays in front of her house. It starts snowing and when the snow just about covers the elephant, she finally agrees to let him in. He crashes through the floor and eats all of their food, then he thinks of a way to help and walks to a warmer climate, carrying the house and everyone it on his back. And everyone, including Grandma Tildy, is happy.
Author/illustrator Jerry Smath published over 100 books for children, including some of his own versions of popular holiday stories such as A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker. This book came as a book club selection during the days when our kids were young and it was a big family favorite. The kids would always chime in and say ‘But no elephants’ whenever Grandma Tildy would say it, making it a lot of fun to read aloud. I always thought the idea of a door-to-door pet salesman was pretty funny, especially when you see that he seems to unload his entire stock of pets on Grandma Tildy, one at a time. The artwork is cute and comical, with lots of fun little details to notice in the illustrations. In addition to the message about prejudice, there’s also an underlying theme of gratitude and responsibility, since each of the animals who are taken in by Grandma Tildy wants to be helpful to her. There’s a lot to love here.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that you never know when the one person you’re excluding could be the one person you need most.