Little Elliot, Big Fun

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Little Elliot, Big Fun Book Poster Image
Friendship soothes fears in charming amusement park tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows the kinds of rides you might find at an amusement park or carnival. Shows how a friend can be empathetic and understanding with someone who's afraid of certain experiences.

Positive Messages

Favorite days are the ones you spend with your friend. It's OK to be scared sometimes and find other things to do or other ways to play that aren't scary. A true friend supports you and doesn't judge you.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Elliot is kind and fun-loving but sensitive and vulnerable. He expresses his fears but in the end opens up, tries new things, and doesn't let his fears keep him from having fun. Mouse is a great friend who respects Elliot's feelings, runs after him when Elliot runs to the beach to get away from the scary Fun House, does his best to make him feel safe, and expresses his appreciation of him. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Little Elliot, Big Fun is Mike Curato's third book about adorable polka-dotted young elephant Elliot and his tiny New York mouse friend in New York. In this outing, they take the subway to what appears to be Coney Island, where Elliot is scared of many of the rides. Mouse finds ones that are just Elliot's speed, and they end up having a great day. A great choice for kids who tend to be fearful or take a while to warm up to new things. 

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What's the story?

LITTLE ELLIOT, BIG FUN starts with a subway ride to a seaside amusement park on the edge of the big city. Mouse has been there before with his family, but Elliot has a lot of fears about the rides, and his fear is holding him back. The chute ride is "Too wet!" The spinning ride is "Too dizzy!" The wooden rollercoaster is "Too fast!" He's scared by a clown, ducks into the fun house, and soon flees from that in terror. Mouse finally takes him on the Ferris wheel and watches a gorgeous sunset. Elliot's finally having fun! They take in some final rides, including the carousel, and as fireworks explode in the night sky, they agree that their favorite part of the day -- and every day -- is "being with you." 

Is it any good?

This gentle friendship story shows tremendous respect for a fearful young one's feelings. Shy or scared kids are often mocked in stories and real life. But in Little Elliot, Big Fun, the little elephant's mouse friend takes care to help his pal find activities and rides that he'll enjoy, not run from in terror. Elliot's final line, as the two hug while watching fireworks, couldn't be sweeter: "Being with you is my favorite part part of every day!"

The author-illustrator's soft palette and retro illustration style evokes the 1930s, '40s, or '50s, adding to the classic/timeless feel of the story. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how fears are treated in Little Elliot, Big Fun. Do you have friends and family who understand when you don't want to do certain things and don't mock you for it? 

  • What do you think of the look of the amusement park? Does it look familiar or old-fashioned? How about the people and how they're dressed? Do you think the story takes place today or in another time? 

  • Have you ever been too scared to go on a ride? How did you feel? Were the kids you were with nice about it?

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