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The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars: 02/05/09

Jean Merrill may be best known for The Pushcart War (1964) but I know her through The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars (1967). This book about an elephant and his thing about smashing small cars is one my husband grew up with. It's really a strange book but oddly entertaining.

The story is simple and absurd. An elephant in some unnamed town terrorizes the highway by smashing all the small cars that drive by. When a car dealership opens up in his territory, the elephant gleefully smashes all the inventory. The dealer, not about to be chased away by this elephant gets his revenge. In the end the elephant learns his lesson but doesn't lose his love of smashing cars.

The illustrations by Ronni Solbert (who illustrated most of Merrill's books) are minimalist, lacking in the bells and whistles so common in illustrations for children's books. They are none the less effective and well suited for this bizarre story.

The elephant also has a theme song. The sheet music is included in the book on page seven. It's called "The Smashing Song." My kids love to sing it.

My husband grew up with this book. His family's copy has fallen apart from so much reading and he wanted to get a copy for our children. The process of finding a copy and then one that we could afford took about six years of on and off searching the various used book sellers on the internet. While the rest of Merrill's books seem to be still in print, The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars isn't. Instead it seems to be in some sort of publishing limbo. It's currently listed with a "new" price of $5.99 but it's not actually in print. The 1967 copies fetch a handsome price from $52 and up. The current most expensive copy is $200 but I've seen it offered for as high as $400. A year or so ago I found someone who didn't know the going rate for this book and I snatched it up for about $20 (including shipping).

It's a cute book and the four of us enjoy it but I personally wouldn't pay what most people sell it for.

Comments (4)

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Comment #1: Friday, February, 6, 2009 at 08:51:21


It looks hilarious. I've often been on years-long searches for books I love that are out of print- you had great luck finding this one!

Comment #2: Friday, February 6, 2009 at 21:45:12


It is hilarious. I'm glad I stuck with the search. We are taking good care of the copy I found. Thankfully it's an ex-library book with a proper binding.

Comment #3: Friday, February, 20, 2009 at 11:30:42


Our family went through a similar search to replace the much beloved copy we all grew up reading. Proof that we really need a copy for everyone in the family came this week when I agreed to take part in a local reading series (for writers reading other authors' works), only to discover that my mother can't find the new copy. Nor is it to be found in the public or university libraries of Iowa, Los Angeles, or Connecticut. I'd happily buy my own copy if it could arrive by the reading on Sunday, but as it is I'm looking for a source that could provide just the text. Anyone out there who can help?

Comment #4: Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 16:29:24


Good luck!

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