Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Elephant in the Room: Hiding Phil by Eric Barclay


Three kids meet up with an elephant stranded at the bus stop and invite him to join them at the playground.  With his tiny hat secure on his head, the pachyderm and the kids have a blast on the slides and see-saw, and Phil even offers his long trunk for a jump rope. The kids can't bear to say goodbye to their new buddy.
"MOM AND DAD WILL LOVE PHIL!" the girl gushes.

Suddenly logic rears its party-pooping old head.

Um, No. They won't. Obviously, Phil won't fit in their house.

But the kids are hopeful.  Maybe they can sneak Phil by, under their parents' radar. But how do you hide an elephant?

The oldest boy tries hiding Phil under the dog house.

It looks like a red-roofed football helmet on Phil, and what's more, it's stuck!

By the time Phil is free, the dog house is a pile of splinters. But the kids haven't given up yet. They rake up a pile of autumn leaves deep enough to conceal all of Phil except his fedora. But the leaves give Phil a sneeze. KER-CHOOOO!

The leaves leave in the breeze from that big sneeze, but the kids have another inspiration. Throwing an enormous tarp over Phil, they paint a door and two windows on the front and write "CLUBHOUSE" over the door. This trick can't miss. Hopefully, they invite Mom and Dad to view their new backyard hangout.

"UM... IS THAT AN ELEPHANT?" says Mom.


That eternal plea of kids, "Can we keep him?" no matter what sort of critter they bring home, provides the premise for Eric Barclay's hilarious story of a mission impossible, Hiding Phil (Scholastic, 2013). Barclay utilizes a minimum of simple but telling text in this story, and his retro comic characters (somewhat reminiscent of the popular cartoon "The Family Circus") and his happy use of visual jokes tell the story with a bit of pathos, plenty of wit, and an empathetic ending.  Hiding Phil is a honey of a kid pleaser, great for read-aloud times or for self-reading for beginners. "Prepare yourself for a "trunkload" of fun," quips Children's Literature.

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