Friday, November 22, 2013

Flannel Friday: The Elephant and the Bad Baby by Elfrida Vipont & Raymond Briggs

As we continue to anxiously await the arrival of our new baby, expected just about any day, my husband and I have been relaxing and sharing books. The other day, he came home with a 1969 picture book called The Elephant and the Bad Baby, written by British children's author Elfrida Vipont and illustrated by Raymond Briggs of The Snowman fame. We read it aloud to each other just for the fun of it, but I soon realized the story would work really well as a flannel board or Powerpoint presentation. We came to have this book because it was being weeded from the collection at my husband's library, so I'm not sure how widely available it is, but I'd like to share my suggestions for using it with kids, and I'll try to provide enough of a script that  you can tell the story even if you can't find a copy of the original story.

The Story 

The story begins as follows:

Once upon a time there was an Elephant. 

One day the elephant went for a walk and met a Bad Baby. And the Elephant said to the Bad Baby, "Would you like a ride?"  And the Bad Baby said yes. 

So the elephant stretched out his trunk, picked up the Bad Baby, and put him on his back. And they went rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta, all down the road. 

At this point, the elephant and the baby meet the ice cream man. The elephant asks the baby if he wants an ice cream, and of course, the baby says yes.  So the elephant takes an ice cream for himself, and an ice cream for the baby, and they go "rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta, all down the road, with the ice cream man running after."

This is the basic formula for the entire story. The elephant and the baby come upon a butcher from whom they take meat pies, a baker from whom they take buns, a snackshop from which they take gingersnaps, a grocery store from which they each take a chocolate cookie, a candy store from which they take lollipops, and a fruit and vegetable man from whom they take apples. After each stop, the line of characters running after them grows longer, until finally, they go "rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta, all down the road, with the ice cream man, and the butcher, and the baker, and the snackshop man, and the grocer, and the lady from the candy store, and the fruit and vegetable man all running after."

At this point, the elephant turns on the baby, realizing that he has never once said please for any of the treats he has received. The Bad Baby falls off the elephant's back, and the entire group running behind them goes "BUMP into a heap." Finally, the Bad Baby does say please, and he asks to be taken home to his mother.  At the Bad Baby's house, his mother makes pancakes for everyone, then the angry mob chases the elephant away "rumpeta rumpeta rumpeta" while the baby falls fast asleep in bed.


This presentation, which I created in Google Drive using free clipart is probably not finalized enough to use in a real story time. The structure of it is fine, but the clipart images I was able to find don't really match each other, and I'm not sure how well the kids would understand who is who based on some of the images. (The person in the candy store is meant to be female, for example, and a snackshop isn't really a fast food restaurant.) Still, I think this presentation will be helpful for anyone who wants to create flannel board pieces for the story, because there are so many characters and objects to keep track of. I also like experimenting with presentations like this because they let me get creative with moving the pieces and adding textual elements to the story without creating a lot of the distractions that come from constantly moving things on and off the flannel board.

Other Suggestions

My instinct is actually not to tell this story using the flannel board at first. I think the book works perfectly on its own, and if possible, sharing the original text and illustrations is probably the best way to introduce the story to a group of kids. Because the story is repetitive and cumulative, though, I think it lends itself very well to being retold on the flannel board once the kids have had a chance to assimilate the content. In classrooms, or in public libraries where theft is not a major problem, a set of flannel board pieces could easily become a center for kids to work on individually or in small groups. In a structured story time setting, having flannel board pieces on hand creates an opportunity to match the shopkeeper to the item taken from his shop, or to see how many of the shops the kids can remember in order. Just in general, I think it would also be interesting to hear from kids why they think the baby is bad, and whether the elephant is truly blameless. The "rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta" refrain also lends itself to interaction - it would be fun to have kids tap their knees in a galloping motion, or even stomp their own feet to imitate the elephant running. I really like this book, and I hope some of you will find that it is in your library's collections so you can use it and let me know what your groups think!

Flannel Friday

Bridget is our Flannel Friday host this week. For more Flannel Friday information and contributions, check out the official website, the Facebook group, and the Pinterest boards.
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