Are you familiar with the Large family? They’re the elephants in the books written by British author and illustrator Jill Murphy.

The DFF Book Club

I generally don’t like anthropomorphic animal stories. Animals in clothes give me the creeps, which is why I’ve avoided Beatrix Potter (although I have it on good authority that children enjoy her tales).

But with Jill Murphy’s books, I’m happy to make an exception. I can soooo relate with a mummy elephant. She even wears a shower cap in the bath — like me!

Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy

The story starts with a chaotic breakfast scene. “It was not a pleasant sight,” writes Murphy. And as a mother I can understand her sentiments. (My children think the breakfast looks like a lot of fun.)

Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy
Murphy's illustrations hold realistic details that are easy to relate to.

Rather than dealing with the mess, Mrs Large decides to retreat to the bathroom for “five minutes’ peace”. Hah! Who can relate to that?

Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy
She runs a deep, hot bath and lays back with her eyes closed. "It was heaven."

If you’re a mother, you know what happens, I’m sure. No surprises here. But the family is still so delightful, and the mother so long-suffering that you feel inspired to extend her generosity to your own children.

Yep, it doesn’t take long for the children to come into the bathroom and interrupt Mrs Large’s peaceful bath. One plays his recorder. Another reads from her book. And the youngest one brings in toys to share.

“Thank you, dear,” said Mrs Large weakly.

Mrs Large’s bath looked like so much fun that soon the kids climbed in the bath too.

The little one was in such a hurry that he forgot to take off his pyjamas.

Murphy shows brilliance in including details like the elephant wearing clothes in the bath. Pre-school-aged children understand the “proper” way to do things, and wearing clothes in the bath is hilarious to them.

Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy
I'm certain my children hear this story and understand it from a completely different perspective. The elephant kids' lives look like lots of fun, and everyone remains cheerful throughout the stories. They're such pleasant books to read aloud.

Mrs Large gets out of the bath. She’s frowning now as she dries herself and puts on her dressing gown.

“Where are you going now, Mum?” asked Laura
“To the kitchen,” said Mrs Large.
“Why?” asked Lester.
“Because I want five minutes’ peace from you lot,” said Mrs Large. “That’s why.”

Five Minutes' Peace by Jill Murphy
And off she went downstairs, where she had three minutes and forty-five seconds of peace before they all came to join her.

Five Minutes’ Peace was first published in 1986, but is still in print — a testimony to the popularity of Murphy’s books. You can buy it here via the Book Depository (always visit bookdepository.com rather than bookdepository.co.uk — it seems to be cheaper) or on Amazon. While you’re browsing, check out the other titles in the Large family series, too.