(but now I remember – thank you, Internet!)The Elephant and the Bad Babyby Elfrida Vipont
Here’s a review I wrote of it on Amazon almost ten years ago:
This is one of our perennial read-aloud favourites. As a previous reviewer points out, it IS a little strange; in our house, that's what makes it stand out from the run of the mill. You never know exactly WHY the baby is called a "bad baby" even before the story begins -- but that makes it even more intriguing for kids.
And of course, the art does look dated and peculiar, and the words ("crisps," "sweet shop") are all kind of funny to my kids. Also, because we're Jewish, when I read it, I say "meat store man" instead of "pork butcher," so as not to offend my kids' kosher sensibilities! But all of these quirks just make it more fun to read and -- judging from their reactions -- all the more fun to listen to.
The story is straightforward and fun -- a baby and its kleptomaniac elephant friend go out for a romp on the town, a romp which culminates when the elephant decides that the baby is not polite enough and must be brought home for pancakes. That's the basic plot, but it is thrillingly executed in a classic style.
We have been taking this book out of the library regularly for years, and my only fear is that we and other fans of this book will eventually wear out their single copy -- leaving us without this one-of-a-kind gem!!!
It’s very Britishy, and very weird, but tons of fun. My favourite part of the story is that it never tells WHY the baby is considered “a Bad Baby,” leaving it totally to your kids’ imagination!
I happened to have found the text online, so here’s a taste…
Once upon a time there was an Elephant.
And one day the Elephant went for a walk and he 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, and picked the Bad Baby and put him on his back, and they went rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta, all down the road.
Very soon they met an ice-cream man. And the Elephant said to the Bad Baby, “Would you like an ice-cream?” And the Bad Baby said, “Yes.” So the Elephant stretched out his trunk, and took an ice-cream for himself and an ice-cream for the Bad Baby, and they went rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta, all down the road with the ice-cream man running after.
Well, eventually, everybody’s running after them, the Bad Baby gets a lesson in manners, and everybody (including the elephant) goes inside for pancakes. Like with the story of Little Black Sambo / Little Babaji, you’ve got to love a book that ends with pancakes and bedtime.
(can you spot the shoplifting elephant in this picture?)