The author of the well-received Stay Away from Simon! returns to the early 1800's to tell another powerful story about an outcast. Will, 12, is the son of frail, imaginative Maddy, who has raised him alone in their small Massachusetts town; her strangeness and their poverty have made him a target for bullies. As Maddy weakens (apparently she has tuberculosis), the Sandersons give Will a job in their general store. There, he meets Toong Talong, the first elephant ever seen locally, whose entrepreneur owner leaves her with the Sandersons for the winter. The strong relationship that Will develops with Toong and the competence and courage required to care for her help him to gain the other boys' respect, weather Maddy's death, and finally to take effective action when he is threatened with Toong's loss in the spring. In simple, evocative prose, Carrick captures the growing love between boy and beast while keeping their surroundings firmly realistic, skillfully making the story heartwarming yet unsentimental. Children will be intrigued to know that the story is based on a real 19th-century elephant. The frequent full-page drawings add drama, depth, and a strong sense of place.