Raju the baby elephant is reluctant to go on an early morning journey with his mother and, like any child, persistently asks when they can return home. Mother’s answer is just as constant. ‘Soon’, she says, despite the ever-present danger of wild animals. And when in the end, the two survey their beautiful world from the top of a mountain, Raju is awestruck and eager to return ‘soon’.
This very simple story is made majestic by the hugely handsome elephants. Ponderously powerful, and almost too big for the pages, the two walk slowly across the land, baby elephant trustingly grasping Mother’s tail with his little trunk. The slowness of both journey and the narrative is perfect for young ones and there is a lyrical feel to the trek, underscored by the gentle questioning and soft repetitive answer. Commanding and evocative, the rich, earthy colours, boldly limited in hue, are all the more potent set against the sheer size of the heroes. Benson’s art has a quiet power, true to the lush jungle, forest and mountain, and this, coupled with the truth of the story, is a mighty combination.
Mother’s prowess is profound in scaring away predators, giving Raju the confidence to go on. Though the baby elephant is shown anxious and scared, he is also jubilantly proud of his mother’s success in chasing off crocodiles, lions and snakes. Comforted and reassured by his mother’s ability, it’s a perfect example of how a single emotion, very familiar to little ones, enriched by fine work, is enough to carry a picture book story.