"It's not apparent at first where Belgian newcomer De Kockere is going with his story of Willy the elephant, though it's clear that Willy's unbecoming physique figures centrally: 'Willy had legs like pillars. Four of them. . . He also had a tail . . . with a ridiculous little brush at the end.' The message unfurls slowly, with quiet wit. Willy, it seems, has used his ungainly body to make himself useful and beloved. The ridiculous little tail means that he is 'invited everywhere to paint. Especially the really fine details.' He pushes reluctant students to school and sits up straight at all performances, no matter how boring and he is loved. 'So if you have legs like pillars or ears that flap in the wind,' De Kockere concludes, addressing readers directly, 'then think of him. Think of Willy.' What might otherwise be a 'handsome-is-as-handsome-does' moral is launched into new territory by the calm, arm's-length tone of the narrator and Cneut's (Ten Moonstruck Piglets) simultaneously ridiculous and dignified paintings. Special mention should be made of the unnamed translator, who has rendered the narrator's voice with grace."
Kirkus, Starred Review
"In this fine, low-key parable, Willy the elephant sports all elephant particulars: floppy ears, stout legs, dinky tail, general bigness.
He is drawn by Cneut as if made from artful cement though maybe a little fragile, like an old fresco. 'He had two huge ears that flapped in the wind. And in between was his head . . . ' De Kockere's text is artful, too, and gently, mildly eccentric: 'He stood like a mast. That came in very handy when you needed someone to hold something ? a clothesline full of laundry, for instance.' Willy is comfortable in his elephantness; he knows how best to deploy his ears and tail and trunk and size: 'Sometimes he was called on to come and push with that enormous body of his. A child who didn't want to go to school, or a car that stood in the way.' The other characters in the story are drawn in hot colors ? reds, some yellows ? on fields of white along with gray Willy and with the same strange, haunting delicacy. But it is the unexpected turn that De Kockere takes at the story's end that is the showstopper. Suddenly we are all Willy, in one great inclusive hug; maybe we, too, have stout legs, ears that flap in the wind, general bigness or 'a little something somewhere, with a ridiculous little brush at the end.'
'Readers will be inspired to think of Willy: These aren't defects, they're worthy attributes, capable of delivering something good."