Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Conway, David. Illust. Roberta Angaramo. Errol and His Extraordinary Nose. New York: Holiday House, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-8234-2262-3. $16.95 US. Ages 7-9.

Errol the Elephant goes to Acacia Tree School with a menagerie of highly talented friends: Abraham the Anaconda can "swallow almost anything," Zachary the Zebra can disappear, and the Chameleon Brothers can change into anything they want. Errol the Elephant, though, doesn't seem to have a special talent. Errol's embarrassment at his lack of talent is made even worse when Mr. Geoffreys, the Giant Tortoise, announces that there will be a talent show. In desperation, Errol decides he is going to find something he is really good at. Unfortunately, his trunk gets in the way of juggling, playing the sousaphone is a failure, and whenever Errol tries to dance, he falls over.

At the end of the day when it's time to go to bed, Errol is in tears. Errol's dad asks what's wrong, and Errol tells him everything. After comforting his son and assuring him that everything will be okay and that he is actually quite talented, Errol's dad gives him a book to read about elephants. As Errol reads the book, he finds out all sorts of things that make elephants, and him, very special. The most exciting thing that Errol finds out is that he is the "owner of quite an extraordinary nose." In fact, Errol's nose is "unlike any other in the animal kingdom." After getting ideas for his talent show presentation, Errol goes to sleep. The day of the talent show arrives: The African Finches sing, Morris the Meerkat conducts the orchestra, Abraham the Anaconda eats two hundred pancakes, Zachary the Zebra hides in the backdrop, and finally it's Errol's turn. Errol proceeds to show the audience what his extraordinary nose can do. He uses it to pick up objects, he "astound[s] everyone as he dance[s] in a tank of water while using his nose as a snorkel," and he finishes by putting on a spectacular water and lights show. Not only does Errol win the talent show, he and his friends go on to find they "share the best talent of all...making friends."

Daniel Conway's text along with Roberta Angaramo's illustrations create a delightful read. Conway's choice of names and the accompanying consonance and assonance allow the words to playfully dance on your tongue. Similarly, there are several fun and most likely unknown words for early readers like: "astounded" and "flabbergasted." While it does feel like the final page where Errol and his friends find out their most important talents are making friends is a last minute tag-on, Conway does well in providing a positive atmosphere. I especially appreciated how Errol's dad not only listens to Errol's feeling and concerns, but also offers a book for Errol to read for himself. I heartily approve of this quiet, and early message about how books can be used.

When it comes to illustrations, one of the most memorable images is Errol—decked out in a swim cap, goggles, and fins—dancing in a tank of water. The drawings of Errol's attempts to find his talents are also engaging, and Errol's enthusiasm as he completes his final performance of singing and dancing in his own created water and lights show made me smile. Errol and His Extraordinary Nose is a solid children's book that reminds readers to not underestimate themselves and others

Stephanie Ashley

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