ELMER and Friends: The Colourful World of David McKee, the first ever major retrospective of David McKee’s striking artwork will open at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books, in February 2019.

The exhibition, officially announced on Elmer Day, celebrates 30 years of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant and visitors from across the region are invited to step into David McKee’s colourful world in this characteristically playful Seven Stories exhibition.

Elmer remains one of the most widely read children’s book series of all time, selling over eight million copies worldwide since it was first published by Andersen Press in 1989. Written and illustrated by celebrated children’s author and artist David McKee, the Elmer books have been translated into more than 50 languages and now new books, toys and clothing add to the world of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant.

In the first book of the iconic series, Elmer discovers that when he tries to change his appearance in order to 'blend in' with the other elephants, they no longer recognise him, or accept him. This makes Elmer sad, and he experiences how it feels to be treated like an outcast, after being ostracised by his old friends. It's only when it begins to rain, and the grey paint that Elmer has covered himself with starts to disappear, that Elmer's 'true colours' are revealed, much to the surprise and delight of his friends, who preferred his multicoloured and fun-loving self.

Kate Edwards, Chief Executive of Seven Stories, said: “Elmer is about celebrating your own true colours and having the confidence to be unique. We can’t wait to invite families to be part of our patchwork world as we wish Elmer a very happy 30th birthday.

“As well as being full of vibrance and colour, David’s stories are perfect for opening up conversations around diversity and being yourself, something that Seven Stories has championed throughout all of our work with children and young people. David’s books are modern classics and Elmer’s subtle message, that it is ok to be different, resonates with children across the world.”

Alongside artwork and manuscripts from the world famous Elmer series, some of which will be on display for the first time, the exhibition will also showcase artwork from David McKee’s other popular stories, including Not Now, Bernard.

David McKee, author of Elmer said; “Elmer is really about accepting who you are, about celebrating difference. We are all different to a greater or lesser degree. We are all different, with so many differences, difference of colour, of accents, but also of size, shape and how we dress. The differences are what make the world so rich. It's strange because we humans seem to like difference in other things - in dogs and trees and flowers, but we don't accept it in people. If people aren't like us, we don't accept them. Elmer tried to be like the other elephants but in the end he has to be himself".

Coinciding with the exhibition, Elmer’s Big Art Parade will also be taking place across the city from August 2019. This stunning art trail made up of individually designed sculptures based on the much-loved Elmer character, will stomp its way across the region for 10 weeks from August to October 2019.  Brought to you by St Oswald’s Children’s Hospice in partnership with Wild in Art and Andersen Press, the trail will raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Hospice. 

Families and Elmer fans can enjoy the exhibition at Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books for a year before the exhibition packs its trunk to tour to visitor attractions and venues across the UK.