The next program I have coming up is Animal Mania: Elephants! So I was cruising through our picture books on said large mammals when I came across The Strangest Book I Have Ever Read. Bertil and the Bathroom Elephants is a Swedish book translated into English. It’s the story of 3-year-old Bertil, who splashes water all over the bathroom and blames it on a pair of special bathroom elephants living under his tub. His mother invites them to stay and starts to leave bowls of raisins for them, which Bertil eats because the elephants are not real. Then the elephants start attacking him every time he goes to the bathroom, which suggests they are real. This leads to many gratuitous pants-around-the-ankles drawings of little Bertil on the pot or falling on the floor. Not full frontal, but I feel very well acquainted with his rear end. He becomes terrified of the elephants and refuses to use the bathroom. Eventually his parents have to get the training potty out and he uses it in the hallway. That image will be etched on my brain forever. This goes on and on until some trickery from his dad and a neighbor convinces Bertil the elephants are gone, and the book ends with him having a successful experience on the toilet and yelling, “DONE!”

It seems clear that the elephants are all in his imagination, but what’s with the bathroom sneak attacks? Is this a story about the trials and fears of potty-training? Did the elephants really exist, or did Bertil psyche himself out and imagine the attacks as well? Was it just a strange noise? What makes a bathroom elephant turn bad? Perhaps something was lost in the translation, but this is one odd book.

Preschoolers, however, will love it.