Posted in picture books

Review: Tusk Tusk, by David McKee

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Title: Tusk Tusk

Author and Illustrator: David McKee

What it’s about: This book tells the story of a time when elephants came in two colours: black and white. Despite their peaceable attitude towards other creatures, they hated each other because of their obvious colour difference. This hatred develops into full-blown war, the conclusion of which brings about the apparent end of the elephants. Or does it?

Holly’s review: This book is about racism and not liking other people because they look different to you. I didn’t like it because it was scary. The pictures were quite frightening too.

Sam’s review: David McKee is perhaps best known for his much-loved Elmer books but this creation, dating  back to 1978, shows elephants in a much different light. The anthropomorphised creatures not only think like war-mongering humans, their bodies symbolise violence, as their trunks turn from arms with clenched fists into guns  and rifles. The hatred leaps off the page as the white and black elephants wage war on one another. McKee’s use of vibrant colours accentuates the action on the page and I found the glaring elephant eyes unnerving. Towards the end there is a hint that all will be well again, only for an element of unease to creep onto the final page. Not a guaranteed happy ending which might unsettle sensitive children (in fact the whole book might do so).

I checked on Amazon to see what others have made of the book. Generally there were favourable comments along the lines of it being a good book to teach children tolerance and acceptance. One parent did not like it because it had frightened his three-year-old. I come away from this book able to appreciate the artistry in it – McKee’s illustrations are undoubtedly powerful – but wondering if the way the message comes across is rather too severe for young children. Holly has read some pretty harrowing stories before but this short picture book left her uneasy. That is a testament to its power but perhaps the message is more for the adults than the children.

What do you think? Have you read Tusk Tusk?





Childtastic Books started out as a collaborative blog, written by me and my young daughter Holly. Now she's nearly a teen, she's off doing exciting and new things but I am still here, reading, writing and reviewing books for children and young adults of all ages. I miss her input but I hope she will pop in from time to time to do some guest posts! A little about me - I have just finished an MA in Children's Literature from the University of Roehampton (result pending, eeek) and am a part-time primary school librarian. The other part of my time is spent writing and editing, my own work and others, and I am waiting for my first non-fiction book to be published - a teacher resources pack for Handa's Surprise. I welcome comments and love to hear from visitors to this blog. Please note though that, because of time constraints, it is rare that I can read and review books from self-published authors. I receive so many requests and feel badly about not being able to keep up with them all. Thanks for visiting! Sam

4 thoughts on “Review: Tusk Tusk, by David McKee

    1. I’ve read a few by David McKee and there’s another one that I have reservations about – The Sad Story of Veronica Who Played the Violin (which I must review at some point). It’s funny in a very black comedy way for adults but I am not sure what children would make of it.


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