Trunks All Aboard: An Elephant ABC


24 pages
ISBN 0-88776-536-X
DDC j421'.1





Illustrations by Sir William Cornelius Van Horne
Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


“For A let us meet Ahmed, on a boat. When it set sail, he went on
deck. He knew he would look handsome at the rail. / And B will bring us
Bella. Where she learned this, goodness knows: She has a most unnerving
way of saying her “hellos” / Now C is for Carmelita, on a voyage in
a pram. / And Dinah’s slipped into a crowd (for Dinah’s on the

This quirky little alphabet book combines more than two dozen whimsical
elephant cartoons with rhyming couplets. The author of the couplets,
Barbara Nichol, is well known for her offbeat humor. What makes the
illustrations particularly fascinating is that they were drawn by Sir
William Cornelius Van Horne, the hard-nosed 19th-century Canadian
railroad tycoon who ran the CPR over (and through) the Rocky Mountains.
Van Horne originally created the drawings as a treat for his grandson.
Van Horne was traveling through Europe at the time and wanted to show
his grandson some of the sights he saw. For reasons not explained in the
text, Sir William had a soft spot for pachyderms. The result is a series
of comical sketches showing elephants (often in full 19th-century formal
attire) taking the Continental Tour. The deep bond between Van Horne and
his grandson shines through on every page making this book an excellent
choice for intergenerational read-alouds. Highly recommended.


Nichol, Barbara., “Trunks All Aboard: An Elephant ABC,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,