A tragic tree story, taking place in Tokyo during the last months of WW II, and broadcast annually since 1951 on Japanese...

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FAITHFUL ELEPHANTS: A True Story of Animals, People and War

A tragic tree story, taking place in Tokyo during the last months of WW II, and broadcast annually since 1951 on Japanese radio to commemorate the anniversary of Japan's surrender. As bombs fell, the Japanese army commanded that the more dangerous animals in the Ueno Zoo be put to death lest they escape in an attack. Lions, tigers, and bears were successfully poisoned; but John, an elephant, was clever enough to discard poisoned potatoes, and a hypodermic failed to pierce his thick skin. Therefore, he was given no food or water; in 17 days, he died. Then it was the turn of gentle Tonky and Wanly. Though the keepers wept (one even relented and gave them food for a time) and though the elephants, piteously, did the tricks that used to be rewarded with food, the end of the war was too late to save them. This powerful, heartbreaking story, which obviously has made an eloquent appeal to Japanese immigrants for nearly 40 years, raises some profound questions for the western reader: yes, it is a moving example of the horrors of war, but no fault is implied, either in the authority that made the death decree or in the painful way in which it was carried out--the deprivation of food by the keepers who had been the elephants' nurturers and teachers. This is a book that should be read, and discussed. Lewin's beautiful watercolors bring out the elephants' nobility and the pathos of their plight.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0395861373

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1988