Elmer the Patchwork Elephant is 25!

When my son was at the nursery and then in reception he was totally obsessed with Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. I ended up buying and reading many of its books and I have become a big fan of the elephant myself 🙂 Elmer, written and illustrated by leading children’s author and artist David McKee, celebrates its 25th Anniversary at Andersen Press this Summer and we thought we bring you 25 fun facts to celebrate him. Enjoy!

  1. Elmer was first published by Andersen Press in 1989.
  2. A celebrated author and artist, David McKee has written and illustrated over 50 picture books for Andersen Press.
  3. David McKee is the creator of a number of children’s classics including Mr Benn, King Rollo, Not Now Bernard and of course, Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.
  4. Over 7 million copies of the Elmer books have sold worldwide.
  5. To date Elmer has been translated into 50 languages, including Curacaon Papiamento, Aruban Papiamento, Luxembourgish and coming soon Azerbaijani.
  6. The Elmer merchandise programme sells over 5 million at retail per year worldwide.
  7. Elmer is so popular with all ages in Japan that a successful clothing range for adults has launched there.
  8. Over 30 companies manufacture Elmer products globally.
  9. The Elmer soft toy is the best selling product in the UK, and has sold over 23.5k at retail.
  10. Elmer has been published in over 10 different formats, including board books, pop-up books and an interactive sound book.
  11. There are 22 original Elmer stories.
  12. Elmer’s colourful patchwork body is made up of 9 colours: yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, green, black and white.
  13. The Elmer books tackle some big issues, such as immigration, prejudice and conservation.
  14. This year the Guardian celebrated Elmer as an LGBT hero for ‘opening people’s minds to accepting difference and being themselves for a quarter of a century’.
  15. Elmer has popped up in some surprising places on TV including an episode of QI alongside Stephen Fry, Gavin and Stacey, and more recently in an episode of Rev.
  16. A mosaic artist is currently at work on an Elmer book bench that will be displayed in Central London this Summer as part of the National Literacy Trust’s Books About Town project.
  17. David’s style has been influenced by many great artists including Paul Klee, the Fauvists and Brueghel.
  18. David has illustrated much-loved characters for other writers including Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear and Forrest Wilson’s SuperGran books.
  19. David was the UK nominee for the international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2006.
  20. If you look carefully you can spot Elmer in two of David’s other books – Not Now Bernard and King Rollo.
  21. David took inspiration for Elmer’s elephant family from his own relatives; Cousin Wilbur, is based on a ventriloquist uncle of David’s and Aunt Zelda is based on David’s own mother.
  22. The lush jungle scenery in the Elmer books is inspired by the plants and flowers of the south of France where David spends much of his time.
  23. There are currently 4 Elmer apps available and the stories are available on a variety of digital platforms including Me Books, My Story, Amazon Kindle, Apple iBookstore and Signed Stories.
  24. David McKee was co-founder of King Rollo Films, the BAFTA award-winning production company behind animated children’s classics Mr Benn, Spot the Dog and Maisy.
  25. Elmer is available in a tactile and audio version for blind and visually impaired children and two Elmer stories have been translated into sign language to make them more accessible for deaf children.

Take a look at these images of David McKee officially launching the Elmer the Elephant Book Bench as part of the National Literacy Trust’s ‘Books About Town’ project 2014.  Situated at Greenwich Park, Elmer the patchwork elephant is destined to be the most colourful bench on the trail.


David McKee was born in Devon and studied at Plymouth Art College. In the early part of his career, McKee regularly drew and sold humorous drawings to magazines and newspapers such as The Times Educational Supplement, Punch and the Reader’s Digest. Inspired by artists such as Saul Steinberg and Andre Francois, David McKee has written and illustrated over 50 picture books for Andersen Press and has penned a number of children’s classics including King Rollo, Mr Benn, Not Now Bernard and Elmer the Patchwork Elephant. David McKee loves to paint and now lives in Paris but regularly visits London.



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