Elmer the Patchwork Elephant

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Elmer the Patchwork Elephant
Book cover for Elmer the Patchwork Elephant

AuthorDavid McKee
IllustratorDavid McKee
No. of books41 (List of books)

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant (often shortened to Elmer) is a children's picture book series by the British author David McKee.

The books[edit]

Elmer was first published by Dobson Books in 1968, and re-issued with re-drawn illustrations in a slightly shortened version by Andersen Press in 1989.[1] It was inspired by the mascot of the Bordeaux zoo (which closed in 1974) in France. The books are published in the United Kingdom by Andersen Press and were published in the United States by Harper Collins originally, Andersen press USA now publishes in America. Forty-one book titles have been created since 1989, and the series has sold more than eight million copies in fifty languages around the world. Satoshi Kitamura carried out the Japanese translation.


Elmer is an elephant with yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, green, black and white squares arranged as a patchwork. He has a cheerful and optimistic personality, and he loves practical jokes.

The stories are suitable for early exploration of cultural diversity. One day, Elmer decides that he wants to look like all the other elephants, and paints himself grey in order to 'blend in'. Once painted, they - and the other jungle creatures - no longer recognise him. He returns to the herd and the other elephants stand quietly, until Elmer can't take the quiet any more and he lifts his trunk and then, at the top of his voice, shouting "Boo!", which unknowingly surprises the other elephants. The other elephants immediately realise that the grey elephant must be Elmer and applaud him for his best joke ever. When it begins to rain, the grey paint that Elmer has covered himself with starts to disappear, and Elmer's "true colours" are revealed, much to the delight of his friends, who preferred his multicoloured and fun loving personality. Following their happy reunion, the elephants reassure Elmer that they love him because of his differences, and not in spite of them, and they celebrate by painting themselves in multi-coloured paint (and Elmer paints himself grey), in recognition of Elmer's unique appearance and personality.


Elmer the Patchwork Elephant also features in a wide range of merchandising. His first story is also featured and animated in Anytime Tales, a storytelling animated programme narrating five of David McKee and Tony Ross' stories. The story of Elmer was originally narrated by British voice actor Johnny Morris, who died on 6 May 1999, aged 82. Sophie Aldred also read his first story which was also animated by Mike Hibbert in an episode of Words and Pictures from 1993, featuring the letter E.

Musical stage[edit]

A musical stage version created by Jonathan Rockefeller was adapted by Suzanne Maynard Miller, with songs by Allison Leyton-Brown. After an initial engagement in Toronto (December 2017), Elmer the Patchwork Elephant show embarked upon a tour of the UK January 2019.



The stories are suitable for early exploration of the themes and issues relating to the concept of Diversity. 28 May 2016 was declared Elmer's Day by publisher Andersen Press.[2] Libraries and bookshops across Britain held Elmer themed events.[3]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Eyre, Charlotte (12 March 2019). "McKee reflects on three decades of Elmer as the iconic elephant turns global". The Bookseller.
  2. ^ "Elmer Day". www.andersenpress.co.uk. Andersen Press. Archived from the original on 1 May 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  3. ^ "Elmer the Patchwork Elephant celebrated in libraries". www.suffolklibraries.co.uk. Suffolk Libraries. 25 May 2016. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2016.