The Enid Blyton Society
Jolly Little Jumbo (Little Book No. 12)
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Book Details...

First edition: 1953
Publisher: Brockhampton Press
Illustrator: Eileen A. Soper
Category: Brockhampton Little Books
Genre: Fantasy
Type: Short Story Series Books

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Review by Terry Gustafson

'Jumbo' seems a fairly apposite name to call an elephant and so it is that when Susan and Tom visit the zoo and find a dear little pachyderm residing there, it has to be called 'Jumbo.' Enid Blyton elephants are fond of buns so Tom naturally produces one from what looks like a bag he's carrying (Soper didn't forget that) and hands it to the elephant who takes the food item with his trunk and places it in his mouth.

This kind act makes Jumbo think how friendly the children are; far nicer than the other elephants or those noisy monkeys who live next door, and he thinks to himself - why not run away and be a pet to someone, just like a cats and dogs are? Shall he? Shan't he? Jumbo makes up his mind that he will, so next time the keeper comes to clean out his yard, the little elephant slips out of the open gate and, ignoring the cries of his compatriots, races to the zoo's entrance, steps out onto the footpath, and strides rapidly away.

An elephant wandering along the street is sure to surprise passers-by and that's exactly what happens so Jumbo has to figure out why the people are staring and it boils down to the fact that he's not wearing any clothes. Clothes maketh the man and the elephant, and in another Blyton story they also made the pig, so Jumbo ducks into an outfitters to rectify the situation. The shop girls flee in terror and, seeing the elephant is left with no customer service whatsoever, the only thing he can do is to help himself. In no time at all Jumbo has pulled on an attractive blue jersey and some sporty red shorts. Thinking back, he remembers the socks, shoes, and scarf the little boy had been wearing so, going on that old maxim: 'If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well,' those particular items are searched out and then, when he's donned the biggest beret available, Jumbo's ready for action.

Turning to leave, he notices the weather has turned bad. It's now raining and several of the people walking by have umbrellas above them so, not to be outdone and finding the shop umbrellas are too small for him, Jumbo picks out one of those large sunshades that people place over their back garden tea tables and then he's ready to make himself scarce. Outside, the people still gape at him but this time there are admiring comments and someone even calls him 'beautiful.'

Eventually the rain stops, so down comes the umbrella, and now the little elephant wants to pursue his initial goal. He hasn't forgotten the children who were so kind to him and his one thought is to find them, but there's a problem. Several people, who must have been informed about his escapee status, happen to spot him, and they cry out. Looking round desperately, Jumbo notices a bicycle standing by the kerb so, throwing caution to the winds, he jumps on it and cycles away like a mad thing, ringing the bell persistently (mainly because he likes the sound).

By and by he approaches a school, and knowing that children are to be found in such places, he cycles through the gate thinking that maybe his new friends are within. He dismounts and approaches the entrance to make his presence known but unfortunately, instead of pressing the doorbell to make it sound, he rings the great big school bell used to summon children from all round the village when it's time for classes. The bell peals loudly - ding, dong, ding, dong, causing the children and their mistress inside to look up in amazement.

Who could be ringing the bell when they're all in school? Miss Brown, the teacher, opens the door and to her unending surprise, confronts a baby elephant looking in expectantly and waving his trunk back and forth.

Instant pandemonium!

The children disperse in panic. Harry, Jane, Joan, Ronnie, and the rest skedaddle to hide away in the cupboard, under desks, or behind chairs. Poor little Jumbo is so unhappy and, as he can't bear the thought of frightening any youngster, he turns to leave, 'But Wait, ... There's More!'

A turnabout no less.
Enid Blyton put clothes on many of her animal characters besides Jumbo - fox, bear, rabbit, dog, squirrel, mouse, cat, goat, bird ... and even a fish has been seen with a hat on its head. Toy animals are usually clothed as well.

Could Jumbo have found one of those 'Fuller Figure' stores where fat people obtain their gear? Somewhere in the County of Bucks such an outlet may exist because Fred Trotteville also needs larger sized clothing ... although he would hardly have the dimensions of a baby elephant.

It's doubtful that even a 'Fuller Figure' shop could supply outfits that, when stretched, would fit an elephant ... so maybe Enid Blyton (or Jumbo) used a little of what is known as 'Poetic Licence.'

Jumbo's looting of the shop included the extraction of a big garden sun-shade for protection from the elements. A couple of years earlier, as any EB fan will acknowledge, an Enid Blyton character called Ern made use of a giant golf umbrella for the same purpose.

Could an elephant ride a bike? They've got monkeys and even bears to manage the art, so maybe with time and dedication, a trainer just might be able to impart the necessary technique.

It looks as if there are ten children in Miss Brown's class. This teacher definitely gets around because she's school-mistressed several Blyton establishments ... and as for 'Harry.' Well, this character flits about all over the place, even more so than Miss Brown, so one might consider it appropriate that he would pop up a few times in this series.

'Jumbo' is a popular name for elephants and has been used several times by Enid Blyton. The one belonging to Mr. Tonks in the Galliano Circus series was called 'Jumbo' and an elephant that lived with Noah in the Noddy stories was also known by that name. There's even a 'Jumbo' who plays his part in another book of this series - Come To The Circus.

Walt Disney's baby elephant was of course, Dumbo.

For further study one could spend an interesting few minutes perusing the name 'Jumbo' online because there's quite an interesting history pertaining to this famous creature.

Eileen Soper has worked hard once again to illustrate the booklet in the way EB fans expect and a keynote of her pictures is 'balance.' We're instructed to balance subject matter when taking photographs and it's the same with artistry. Soper fulfills the requirement very adequately, and excellent examples abound such as those found in the frontispieces of several Kirrin books ... have a look at the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th for a start, and around P.13 of the second one. Illustrations where the children's attention is riveted such as that on P.87 of Treasure Island, are also attractive. The wrap-a-round cover of 'I'll Tell You a Story' is particularly appealing, and 'Secret of the Old Mill' has some good examples (P.34). The 'Pennant Series' of booklets also contains a consistently appetizing array of Soper pictures, but this is only scratching the service because the Kirrin books alone have many more excellent depictions. A further selection appears in the 'Enid Blyton Society Journal' (Summer, 2014) - this mine of information about the author is available for a subscription rate that seems unbelievably low in this day and age.