Elmer the beloved colourful patchwork elephant is celebrating his 30th birthday this year, with Saturday 25th May being Elmer day.
Elmer was written in 1968 by David McKee, with the original story setting the scene for who Elmer was and where he lived.
"There was once a herd of elephants. Elephants young, elephants old, elephants tall or fat or thin. Elephants like this, that or the other, call different but all happy and all the same colour. All that is, except Elmer." The introductory image shows a variety of elephants, of all shapes and sizes, but all in the same dirgy grey colour. We then turn over to see the brightly coloured smiling Elmer standing in the dazzling sunshine and read all about him and the many colours that make up this colourful elephant.
Elmer has a fun loving happy personality to match his colourful exterior and he gets on with all the other elephants in his herd plus all the other animals in the jungle too. But one night Elmer worries that the other elephants are laughing at him for being colourful or different and so he disguises himself and returns to his herd as grey as the others. The other elephants don't recognise him and he notices that the mood of the other elephants is rather flat and sombre, so Elmer surprises them all by shouting 'Boo!' loudly which makes them all laugh, both at the surprise and at Elmer disguising himself. Elmer realises that the other elephants appreciate his true colours and the colourful fun he brings to the herd.
Elmer's creator, David McKee, when asked during an interview with The Guardian in 2014 what inspired him to write about a fun and colourful elephant who lived with a herd of monochrome elephants, recounted a racist incident that he'd experienced back in the 1960's whilst out with his mixed race wife and daughter, an encounter which obviously greatly affected and disturbed him.
The story of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant celebrates diversity, not just in terms of what someone looks like but also for allowing individuals to behave differently too and the story has been praised for allowing children to enjoy a story in which looking and acting differently is a positive thing and to be celebrated and enjoyed, culminating in the other elephants celebrating Elmer with Elmer's Day when they all decorated themselves in colourful ways and paraded around.