Alison McDonald and her daughter Erin (aged 5) share their thoughts on a children’s story about an elephant named Irene.
[New City Magazine – November 2014]
Irene the elephant is a beautiful, evocative story for children about an oversized elephant who quite simply does not like herself. As she is so huge, she can carry ‘a whole flock of red billed birds’ on her back.
The humorous repetitive singing birds will make your children laugh as they attempt to tell poor Irene how ‘first rate’ she is at every waking moment. However, like all of us, Irene ignores the positive message and instead focuses on her weaknesses.
As this engaging story unwinds, we realise there is a very profound message here for our children. One day, a white dove flies down to tell Irene that God loves her immensely. Although Irene cannot believe this immediately and questions the message, it gives her the strength to be very brave when danger comes upon her herd of friends. With the red billed birds at her side, Irene becomes a hero and understands the power of God’s love for her and for others.
After reading this story, my six year old daughter Erin commented that, ‘It is amazing. I like how Irene cannonballed in to the river and chased the men away with the red birds. I liked how the dove said God made you just the way you are and God loves you.’
This deep yet simple message was clearly understood by my children and makes for a lovely bedtime story. Sometimes we wonder how to pray with small children before bedtime; I discovered that with a story like this, children can grasp concepts such as the immense love of God for them and this can provoke prayer and dialogue.
When children start infant school, they can be immediately aware of differences between themselves and others and have to deal with playground politics. Irene the Elephant is a story which will help them to unpack all these issues and to understand them in the light of their faith.
I strongly recommend Irene the Elephant to any parents out there with small children; read this book with them and enjoy how your relationship will deepen!