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Elmer and Friends March into Seven Stories for Trium-phant Exhibition

Elmer and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee, the first ever major retrospective of David McKee’s striking illustration is now open at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books.

For the first time ever, families from across the region can step into David McKee’s colourful world in this characteristically playful Seven Stories exhibition as it celebrates 30 years of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

First stop is Elmer’s world, where visitors will be greeted by a giant Elmer jigsaw and enjoy the ultimate Instagram moment. The adventure continues as guests walk through Elmer’s jungle, encountering characters and stories along the way.

As well as illustrations from the Elmer series there will be original artwork from Not Now Bernard, Mr Benn and an original storyboard of King Rolo as well as the opportunity to visit the fancy-dress costume shop featured in Mr Benn, with dressing up opportunities and a reading area.

Visitors can explore David McKee’s vibrant illustrations in great depth through the use of many multi-sensory elements including colour, texture, sound and magnifying glasses plus visualise McKee’s use of perspective through an interactive mirrored walkway.


Seven Stories will also have a variety of Elmer-themed half-term activities such as Elmer’s Rainbow Playscape, Elmer’s Pounce and Bounce Gallery Games including crafts and games hosted by its energic and playful Story Catchers.

A dedicated area of the exhibition has been co-produced with Seven Stories’ Young Producers highlighting its organisational commitment to working collaboratively with children and young people.


There is also an accompanying Elmer and Friends schools programme sponsored by First Class Supply suitable for EYFS, KS1 and SEND school visits from 25th February onwards as well as a Picture Book and Storytelling CPD available for teachers.


Elmer remains one of the most widely read children’s book series of all time, selling over ten million copies worldwide since it was first published by Andersen Press in 1989. Written and illustrated by celebrated children’s author and artist David McKee, the Elmer books have been translated into more than 50 languages and now new books, toys and clothing add to the world of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

In the first book of the iconic series, Elmer discovers that when he tries to change his appearance in order to 'blend in' with the other elephants, they no longer recognise him, or accept him. This makes Elmer sad, and he experiences how it feels to be treated like an outcast, after being ostracised by his old friends. It's only when it begins to rain, and the grey paint that Elmer has covered himself with starts to disappear, that Elmer's 'true colours' are revealed, much to the surprise and delight of his friends, who preferred his multicoloured and fun-loving self.

Kate Edwards, Chief Executive of Seven Stories, said: “We can’t wait to invite families to explore this vibrant new exhibition as we wish Elmer a very happy birthday throughout the whole of 2019. This is the first time that some of David’s striking artwork has been on display and we know that families, schools and fans of children’s literature are going to be blown away by the whole exhibition.

“Elmer's appeal has proven to be timeless and universal, opening up conversations around diversity and self-acceptance. Elmer is about celebrating your own true colours and having the confidence to be unique. Children’s books help us discover the world and understand new and sometimes complicated things. The stories that we experience when we are young significantly shape our ideas and perceptions of the world, they help us to be curious and question things. We are living in a confusing political climate that children and young people can find difficult to understand. David’s books are perfect for opening up conversations around diversity and being yourself, something that Seven Stories has championed throughout all of our work with children and young people. David’s books are modern classics and Elmer’s subtle message, that it is ok to be different, resonates with children across the globe.”

David McKee, author of Elmer said: “Elmer is really about accepting who you are, about celebrating difference. We are all different to a greater or lesser degree. We are all different, with so many differences, difference of colour, of accents, but also of size, shape and how we dress. The differences are what make the world so rich. It's strange because we humans seem to like difference in other things - in dogs and trees and flowers, but we don't accept it in people. If people aren't like us, we don't accept them. Elmer tried to be like the other elephants but in the end he has to be himself. I look forward to seeing the faces of all the children and families when they step into the exhibition at Seven Stories.”

Coinciding with the exhibition, Elmer’s Big Art Parade will also be taking place across the city from August 2019. This stunning art trail made up of individually designed sculptures based on the much-loved Elmer character, will stomp its way across the region for 10 weeks from August to October 2019.  Brought to you by St Oswald’s Children’s Hospice in partnership with Wild in Art and Andersen Press, the trail will raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Hospice. 

Families and Elmer fans can enjoy the exhibition at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books every day, excluding Mondays during term-time. Priced at £7.70 for adults and £6.60 children, visitors are encouraged to share their experiences using the hashtag #Elmer30.

Full ticket information is available on the website. https://www.sevenstories.org.uk/

The exhibition runs for a year before it packs its trunk to tour to visitor attractions and venues across the UK.