Elephant in the Kitchen

By Carol Hinz
Editorial Director, Millbrook Press

No, no, Elephant in the Kitchen isn’t a variant of the expression “elephant in the room.” I’m not about to bring up some terrible unspoken fact about the editorial department kitchen. Elephant in the Kitchen is, in fact, the name of the first chapter book I read entirely by myself.

On her Fuse #8 blog, Betsy Bird has been counting down the top 100 children’s novels (determined by votes from the blog’s readers). It’s a fascinating list, and this week we’ll finally break into the top 10. What will come out on top? Such suspense!

I don’t know for sure that Elephant in the Kitchen would haveElephant Kitchen cover made my top-10 list, but it just might have. In second grade, I ordered the book through Scholastic Book Clubs. I’m not sure what prompted me to order this slim little paperback from the catalog, but when it arrived, I was duly impressed with all those words. The only illustrations were small black and white line drawings.

The book was definitely a challenge for me. As I recall, the story involves a circus elephant who somehow shrinks. He spends most of the book in a human’s kitchen, hence the title. In particular, the word cupboard perplexed me. From the way the word was used, it sounded very much like a “cubbard,” as I assumed the word was spelled. I forged ahead, and I still remember the feeling of triumph when I finished my very first chapter book all by myself.

The book won no major literary awards, but it is the book that made me a reader. After that point, I read everything I could get my hands on. While Millbrook doesn’t publish “chapter books” like this one, I know that any book could be the one that turns a child into a lifelong reader. I hope that one of our books brings the same feeling of excitement to a young reader that this little Elephant brought to me.