There’s an Elephant in the Bathtub

monday inspirationsWelcome back for another post from the Monday Inspirations series. Today’s post is by R.A. Kerr. You can check out previous posts here.


I’ve always been fascinated by writing that does what it feels like, not what it’s supposed to do.

Writing that blindly follows the rules feels like an obligation, like paying the utility bill or eating brussels sprouts at Thanksgiving.

I discovered this early in life when my mother gave me the quirky children’s classic, There’s an Elephant in the Bathtub. (Fact: My mother read this book to me so often, she can still quote lengthy passages by memory.)

The story begins with a delightful sentence that suggests infinite possibilities: “Timothy Wicks was a boy with a wonderful imagination.”

In my four-year-old opinion, Timothy Wicks had the best imagination of any character, ever, period.

The author, Roger Bradfield, also illustrated this book, which he drew in simple black and white drawings. However, the imaginings of our friend Timothy are done in vivid Technicolor, which makes real life lackluster by comparison.

Bradfield gleefully flouts the rules of convention in his writing. There is no Lesson in this story, no realizing of a great moral truth, no “Remember this for later, kids”.

Timothy, the main character, is a boy who Elephant-in-Bathtubaccepts his imagination as The Way Life Is. He has a friend in a cheerful, but hungry giant who loves the cookies Timothy’s mother bakes. Timothy’s backyard has a tree that grows three different types of fruit – on the same branch!

None of the adults in Timothy Wicks’ life believe these strange things, but they don’t meddle. After all, these bizarre sightings have, so far, kept the kid off the streets and out of trouble.

See? This book doesn’t care what you think about this boy’s imagination. And it gets better. Timothy Wicks himself doesn’t care, not even when he finds a horse reclining on the davenport with a book and hot chocolate. Never mind that horses are not allowed in the house; this horse makes himself at home.

(As an aside, Bradfield probably savored the thought of every child asking, “What’s a davenport?”)

Now, about the elephant: On a rainy night, a green elephant with a long trunk takes a bath in the middle of Timothy’s living room. After all, what’s a living room for, if not to install a bathtub for your elephant?

But the cheeky Bradfield isn’t content to have the real world unaffected by Timothy’s imagination. As his father goes to close the window on this rainy night, he trips over the elephant’s long trunk. This collision of imagination and reality leads to a crisis…but you’ll have to read the book to find out more.

There’s an Elephant in the Bathtub taught me to have fun with writing and not take it so seriously. It also taught me to appreciate life’s absurdities. This was the first book I fell in love with, and it remains one of my favorites.


R.A. Kerr is a movie buff who loves old black and white films. In her spare time, she mentors a youth writing group and helps out at a local food bank. She also loves to bake chocolate treats and read historical non-fiction.
Social media links: Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google +

14 thoughts on “There’s an Elephant in the Bathtub

  1. A great tribute to a book I’m sure I’ve seen before but can’t remember where! (And I swear I thought I was following your blog on Bloglovin’, but I guess not!… Rectified now!)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Ula,
    I don’t think we’ve met before, yet I know all these people here. I know Solveig, Rachel, Donna Parker, Austin, Cyndi Knoke, Richard Ankers. How did you find my blog?
    You visited my site MostlyBlogging today (still Monday in CA). I wanted to come by to introduce myself and say thank you. Thank you! I am glad you liked my post about how to have a the factors that make a successful blog.
    As far as your post goes: The story that was reviewed here about the elephant in the bathtub made me think of a story I read my daughter repeatedly as they were growing up: King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, but He Won’t Get Out. Are you familiar with it? Great book for children!
    Nice to meet you. Thanks again for the visit to my site.


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