In this true tale of an elephant that crushed a keeper after peacefully giving zoo visitors rides for nearly 40 years, Fenton tones the drama down to near nonexistence (for better or worse).
Arriving at the Melbourne Zoo as a youngster, Queenie began giving rides in 1905. She became such a fixture that children wrote her letters, her birthday was celebrated each year, and she even marched in the Centenary Floral Parade in 1934. After creating an endearing but not anthropomorphic portrait of her pachyderm protagonist, the author, warning that “Queenie’s story has a sad ending,” goes on to explain that even though the 1944 killing might have been just an accident, “the gentle Indian elephant was put to sleep.” Furthermore, she was never replaced; the elephants in today’s zoo occupy a habitat where they can “do just what elephants like to do.” Neither the incident itself nor Queenie’s end are specifically described or depicted, and Gouldthorpe’s illustrations, which look like old, hand-tinted photographs, put a nostalgic distance between viewers and events.
Sad indeed, but a little bland—though less traumatic in the telling than the stories of Jumbo or the Faithful Elephants (1988) killed at the Tokyo Zoo. (Informational picture book. 6-8)