A shipwrecked elephant makes his tiny island a home for the many friends who come to the rescue, in the new picture book from New York Times Illustrated Book Award winning author.

Caught in a storm, Arnold the elephant washes up on a tiny island. Along comes Mouse in a little dingy and Arnold steps aboard...uh-oh! They use the wreckage to make the island bigger. And here’s Dog—can this boat take Arnold's weight? Uh-oh!

None of the animals can save the shipwrecked elephant but each broken vessel provides new materials for another intricate construction. Wheels and pulleys create a Ferris wheel, an elevator, a waffle maker. All the animals work as a team to build increasingly intricate constructions that turn the desert island into a fun park city. Soon there is a whole community and enough space for everyone!

As with all Leo Timmers picture books, Elephant Island has many layers of discovery. Tapping into the childhood pleasure of contraptions, this cheerful picture book is full of complex and playful visual detail and humour that Leo Timmers’ readers love. Preschoolers who enjoy Meccano and Lego will find joy on every page with the creation of each new imaginative construction, packed with mechanical detail on bright double page spreads. Elephant Island is a runaway hit in Europe.

“yet another triumphant experiment for the award-winning Timmers.” The New York Times

Picture Book finalist, Teach Early Years Awards 2022.

Other books by Leo Timmers:
Monkey On The Run
Where Is The Dragon?
Who’s Driving?
Gus’s Garage

Praise for Elephant Island:
“yet another triumphant experiment for the award-winning Timmers.” The New York Times, Best Children’s Books of 2022

“A fascinating and funny tale. High jinks ensue, with a plethora of brilliantly detailed boats for little ones to pore over.” The Scotsman

"This light-tension, winking tale of a makeshift homecoming is sure to delight audiences at story time." Foreword Reviews, starred

“A picture book tribute to the power of collective, constructive play, and to heeding the call to freedom.” Publishers Weekly

“Perhaps the best yet from Leo Timmers.” Top Children’s Books of 2022, The Listener

“The tender yet dynamic verbal and visual narrative never falters in this engaging picture book.” Booklist

“(a) unique nautical tall tale.” Reading Rockets, Summer Reading Guide
“A wonderful story of problem solving and innovation.” ReadPlus

Praise for Leo Timmers:

Where Is The Dragon? "A lilting Seussian singsong, with wonderful, surprising rhymes, and little readers and their grown-ups will have a great time combining their voices and giggling through the proceedings." Kirkus Reviews, Starred

Monkey On The Run “The silly antics of the little monkey provide forward momentum, but the details in each illustration kept calling us back for a more thorough examination.” A New York Times / New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children's Book 2019

Gus’s Garage “Clearly, one animal’s clutter is another pig’s livelihood in this buoyant, rhyming tale.” The New York Times

Who‘s Driving? “Belgian illustrator Leo Timmers creates a delightful play on the fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare”, which sees the hare driving a racing car.” The Telegraph, Book of the Year 2020


Leo Timmers was born in 1970 in Belgium. At the age of 12 he started to draw comics and later trained in graphic design. He illustrates for magazines and newspapers and has released many successful picture books. He has a large following as one of Belgium’s pre-eminent picture book artists.


A picture book tribute to the power of collective, constructive play, and to heeding the call to freedom

Publishers Weekly

After a boisterous wave sinks his boat, Arnold the seafaring elephant swims for hours before climbing onto a tiny island. A mouse rows by and offers him a ride, but when Arnold steps aboard, the rowboat shatters. They use the wood to build a structure extending the minute island. Increasingly larger boats come to their rescue, break apart, and add to the ramshackle scaffolding and platforms, making space for a large crowd of creatures who join in the nightly singing and dancing. Even after “the sea lost its temper,” smashing Arnold’s strangely uplifting construction, the elephant uses the debris to build another fantastic structure, full of animal friends who enjoy the ongoing celebrations. Timmers, a Belgian writer-illustrator, creates a likable main character with a creative imagination and engineering skills. From the image of the solitary, stranded elephant quoting the ancient mariner, “Alone, alone, all, all alone. Alone on a wide wide sea,” to the scenes depicting his joyous community at the story’s end, the tender yet dynamic verbal and visual narrative never falters in this engaging picture book.


This picture book story about making the most of a difficult situation is lots of fun for 4-6 year olds and the adults who read to them. With the illustrations integral to the storytelling, it makes for a good visual literacy teaching resource.

Reading Time

Arnold, the seafaring elephant, finds himself shipwrecked and all alone in the middle of the ocean. He swims to find refuge on a tiny rock island, but he is stranded. Eventually, a ‘mouseboat’ approaches and the overzealous elephant accidentally ruins any chance of rescue. Unfazed by adversity, he turns the negative into a positive. With some creative engineering, Arnold builds an extension to the island with the remnants of the mouseboat. Arnold takes more care when the next boat approaches, but the result is the same. Once again, he builds an extension and shares the sanctuary with his fellow shipwrecked friends. After a few unfortunate incidents, Arnold transforms the island into a unique place of entertainment. It attracts a myriad of lovable characters and becomes a hive of fun and frivolity where no one wants to leave. Elephant Island is a hilarious picture book highly recommended for an audience aged 4 years and older. The detailed illustrations beautifully extend the text and provide a visual delight for young eyes. The book’s themes include positive thinking, problem-solving and friendship.

Buzz Word Magazine

A wonderful story of problem solving and innovation, the lengths the elephant goes to try and build his island will intrigue and delight all readers. They will have suggestions, and urge Arnold on in his endeavours, while astute adults and teachers will challenge their audience to try something similar themselves. With hints of Heath Robinson and his zany constructors, the illustrations will cause lots of laughter as the readers follow what is happening.

Read Plus

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