Joy Cowley’s Elephant Rhymes (Scholastic)

Joy Cowley is one of New Zealand’s most beloved children’s authors. She has written hundreds of books for children of all ages. I really love Snake and Lizard with illustrations by Gavin Bishop (Gecko Press). It is a beautiful book to hold, the stories are little gems and the pictures are splendid. It made me want to start writing little tiny stories myself. I love the way snake and lizard are always squabbling but are the best of friends.

JoyPortrait         Elephant-Rhymes-5678770-4

Elephant Rhymes is a book of poems with illustrations by Brent Putzee. It was published in 1997 but you can still get it in libraries if not bookshops.

Each poem sparkles and crackles with word delight. Most of the poems tell a story about an elephant character (some poets like all their poems to tell a story!) and all of the poems have fun with words. Joy has a great imagination so her poems stretch out to all kinds of places and situations.

Somebody wants an elephant but her mum thinks a puppy or a kitten would be better round the house.

Somebody else has an elephant under their bed and ends up riding on the elephant in their bed in their pyjamas. This poem is hilarious.

I love the elephant that keeps saying ‘Trumpetty trump!’ And I love the elephant that does the Broadway elephant rap. That elephant gets to go to New York City. The poem has deliciously made-up words like ‘elephong’ and ‘elephand,’ ‘elephied’ and ‘elephap.’

One of my favourite elephant characters is the one in the poem called The Bookshop Elephant. Joy has given me permission to share the poem with you. I love bookshops and I love reading so this my kind of elephant. I also love the way Joy uses repetition. The trunk and the ears are always going to be large and grey. Marvelous! I also like the end of the verses that are in italics. Joy shows you can make a pattern and then you can change it just an inzy winzy bit and make it more interesting.

The Bookshop Elephant

An elephant lives in our bookshop,

beside the paperback shelf.

Any time of the day you will see her,

reading silently to herself.


If you try to interrupt her,

she’ll raise her large grey trunk,

flap her large grey ears and go:

booketty, booketty, hump!


She reads adventure and mystery

but what she likes the most

is a very scary yarn about

a haunted house and a ghost.


If you yell, ‘Boo!’ behind her,

she’ll raise her large grey trunk,

flap her large grey ears and go:

Booketty, booketty, jump!


She’s read a whole section on ballet,

and she thinks she knows how to dance.

She’s even bought a pink tutu

should someone give her the chance.


If you ask her to dance for you,

she’ll raise her large grey trunk,

flap her large grey ears and go:

Booketty, booketty, bump!


She’s studied from Ants to Zebras.

She knows the history of art.

Give her a look at a poetry book

and she learns all the rhymes by heart.


If she’s asked to leave the shop,

she’ll raise her large grey trunk,

flap her large grey ears and go:

Booketty, booketty, grump!

1 thought on “Joy Cowley’s Elephant Rhymes (Scholastic)

  1. Terry Cowley Caturano

    Hello, Joy Cowley, I was looking for poems about elephants and found your book on line. I was intrigued to find your book and your name– perhaps we are cousins…My maiden name is Cowley. I just painted a picture of elephants, which I titled “Elephantasy,” for a child, and wanted to find a poem that would go well with it that I could do in calligraphy as a companion piece. I am on Facebook: Terry Cowley Caturano.


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