Safina recounts time spent and insights gained among elephants and orcas in their native habitats.
The text, adapted from his 2015 book for adults, has been unerringly edited for young readers. Safina insists that the best research focuses on understanding the animals themselves. He subtly reminds readers of this while keeping them entranced by true stories highlighting the complex social behaviors, intelligence, and compassion of the largest land mammals and the largest dolphins on our planet. Of course, comparisons to ourselves cannot be ignored, as examples of these gentle giants teaching their young, being creative, and showing empathy abound. Photographs of daily lives of elephants and orcas accompany many of the short, conversational chapters. The first part of the book is devoted to elephants and the second to orcas, with a brief interlude in which the author describes similarities between the apparently disparate species. In one of many amusing quips, he invites readers to “think of it this way: An elephant is a mammal outfitted for hiking, a whale is outfitted for diving…under the gear, there’s a lot in common.” The hardest chapters are “Ivory” and “The Cost of Captivity,” which bring home the somber truths about horrific damage done to both species by human beings. However, the overall tone is a winning mixture of reverence, wonder, and even playfulness.
A must for middle-grade animal lovers. (notes, selected bibliography, index) (Nonfiction.10-14)