Mammoth by Anna Kemp

A fabulously written and illustrated tale of finding your herd! Read on for a special blog post from author Anna Kemp!

I remember my first day at a new school: new uniform, new ‘Hello Kitty’ lunch-box, and the terrifying knowledge that I’d have to find new friends, and fast. Other children were pairing up, or forming groups, and some seemed to know each other already – which seemed very unfair!

So it was a huge relief when a girl called Emma bravely approached me and said she liked my lunch-box. Soon there were more of us and, before the end of the week, we were a happy, noisy herd.

Everybody needs their herd: people who not only share your love of ‘Hello Kitty’ but who get you, who understand you, and who’ll stick up for you when it counts. For me, this need is at the heart of my new story ‘Mammoth’, created with fantastic new illustrator Adam Beer.

When an ice-age mammoth wakes after thousands of years in deep-freeze, he finds himself in a baffling new world. Where did those noisy wheeled beetles come from? Who are these strange shouty cave-men? And – most importantly – what happened to his herd? He trumpets for them, but only the ‘beetles’ trumpet back. Bewildered, he wanders into a modern-day city full of strange new smells and startling sounds. He tries to make friends and fit in, but all he gets are funny looks and sometimes angry shouting. Nobody understands him… ever. But then he hears a faint trumpeting sound in the distance and decides to follow it. Will he find his herd? Or will he be brave enough to begin a new one?

I was incredibly lucky to work with Adam on Mammoth. What I love most about Adam’s artwork is its wonderful combination of humour and heart. His illustrations of the poor, confused megabeast are terribly moving, yet Adam’s deadpan humour stops the book sliding into the overly sentimental. The picture of the mammoth accidently skewering a basketball on his tusk, for example, is just too funny to be soppy!

Oddly, for a picture-book author, this is the first book for which I paid proper attention to the play of images and words during the writing process. In Mammoth, many of the jokes arise from the juxtaposition of text and image – the gap between what the mammoth thinks he sees (lagoon!) and what he is actually seeing (fancy marble fountain). Adam has a great instinct for these kinds of jokes and his artwork adds many surprising layers to the story. My favourite moment involves a large pile of mammoth poo in an art gallery – I’ll leave that for you to discover!

I imagine that all children (and grown-ups) have felt like the lost mammoth at one time or another: times when we’ve been uprooted from where we felt we belonged and forced to replant ourselves, to grow into new spaces and turn towards new light. And, of course, there are other times when we recognise a lost soul and reach out a hand or – better – admire their lunch-box.

I hope that our mammoth will pluck a few heartstrings and, just as importantly, tickle funnybones. Happy reading everyone!

Anna Kemp

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