Little Jumbo Cheers Up Dad (& the rest of us)

So, to follow up on Eliza’s last post about appealing anthropomorphic characters, have y’all met Little Jumbo?

If not, get your hands on a copy of How to Cheer Up Dad by Fred Koehler (Dial, 2014).

How to Cheer Up Dad

What’s so appealing about the little guy?

For starters, he’s a bit naughty. Personally, I like that in a character.

Here’s how the book begins:

Little Jumbo’s dad was having a bad day.

The cause of that bad day? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that Little Jumbo has dumped out  several cereal boxes, albeit for creative purposes. (Click on images to enlarge.)

Little Jumbo in cereal boxes

Then Dad unwisely puts raisins in Little Jumbo’s oatmeal. Well, what’s a little elephant to do but shoot those raisins to the ceiling? And, of course, Dad should have known better than to tell Little Jumbo he needed a bath, or try to dress him in those dreaded brown overalls.

With all those bad choices, Dad’s mood worsens—leading Little Jumbo to suggest he needs a time-out.

Little Jumbo and Dad time out

Little Jumbo gets one instead. This gives him time to think of ways to cheer up his grump of a dad. Oddly enough, it turns out that the things that improve Dad’s mood just so happen to be some of Little Jumbo’s favorite activities—like playing catch, sharing an ice cream cone, and snuggling up with a book at bedtime.

Little Jumbo tucks in Dad

Well, Fred could have wrapped it up right there with a sweet “Awww” ending, but he went for the “Ha!” instead. When Dad’s sound asleep, Little Jumbo slips out of bed to take on another creative project involving yellow curtains and a pair of scissors . . .

Little Jumbo with curtains

. . . offering the perfect segue to the next installment, Super Jumbo, which recently arrived in bookstores. Be sure to check that one out too.

Super Jumbo by Fred Koehler

So what makes an anthropomorphic character appealing? How about:

  • a little naughtiness
  • a touch of well-intentioned cluelessness
  • a heap of adorableness, and
  • a Jumbo-sized dose of big-heartedness

What do you think?

* * * * * BOOK GIVEAWAY ANNOUNCEMENT!!! * * * * *

The winner of the All We Know Giveaway is Darlene Koppel. Thanks so much for all the nice comments!


Linda Ashman

Linda Ashman is the author of more than 40 picture books, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a how-to guide for picture book writers.


  1. How To Cheer Up Dad looks terrific. I will have to check both books out. Thank you!

  2. I am so glad that Mr. Koehler has given us picture books starring a son and his father. I was enjoying the antics of this “child” so much that I forgot he was an elephant. Mr. Koehler has certainly captured the creative innocence of a child’s perspective. The “ha” ending is perfect! I love it! Thanks so much for sharing. I can’t wait to get a copy and share it with the children at school. I will definitely be getting Super Jumbo as well.

  3. I was touched by the picture of son snuggled up to sleep. It just happens to be on dad’s belly. This shows that there are no boundaries. Father letting son into his “space” and son knowing just where he needs to be.

  4. I’m definitely adding both books to my collection! They look super fun!

  5. It’s quite a trick to set up a sequel in the ending to a picture book. I’m impressed with the author’s ingenuity as well as his humor.

  6. Amanda Sincavage

    These look fabulous! What a great cover for Super Jumbo!

  7. How did I miss this one!? Thanks for bring Jumbo to my attention. I will have to get both books.

  8. These look fabulous ~ off to check them out. Thank you!

  9. Angie Quantrell

    Adorable! I can’t wait to read these books! Thanks for sharing them with us.

  10. What a great idea for a “how to” title, and the cover of Super Jumbo is hilarious. Wonder if the manuscripts were sold as a pair? Will be checking out both of these. Thanks!

    • Good question, Sue. I don’t know!

      • Hi Sue! This is Fred, the author / illustrator. HTCUD sold in a two-book deal, but we had no idea what the sequel would be. We must have gone through a dozen different manuscripts before Lily Malcom, the art director, said “Why don’t you just start the next book where the first one left off?” It was a bit of a palm-to-forehead moment, and SUPER JUMBO was born!

  11. The book sounds & looks delightful–and I really appreciated those helpful hints at the end!

  12. I may be mistaken, but I think I raised Little Jumbo.

  13. These look like really fun books. A little bit of naughtiness does spice a book up!

  14. I’ve taught a few Little Jumbo’s in my teaching career.

  15. I like naughty characters…

  16. Little Jumbo is so, so, good at being bad…must get my hands on these books. =)

  17. Cassie Bentley

    I love this one. It reminds my of when my kids were little and clueless, or was it me?

  18. Great post! I learned about anthropomorphic characters today 🙂

  19. I LOVED this, Linda! I met Fred at a winter SCBWI conference just after he signed the contract for these two books (and I had just signed for my first book), which was a bonding experience. These books are a wonderful example of anthropomorphism done perfectly! Love your list of qualities they require . . .
    Thank you for the great post!

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