PAPA TEMBO by Eric Campbell


Age Range: 11 - 13
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A crazed professional poacher and the elephant who smashed his leg 50 years before meet again in this brutal, melodramatic sequel to The Place of Lions (1991). In his hidden storeroom on the lifeless volcanic slopes of Tanzania’s Ol Doinyo Lengai, Laurens van der Wel has gathered thousands of tusks, but his special prey, known to the Masai as Papa Tembo, “Father Elephant,” remains elusive. About to slaughter another elephant family, van der Wel suddenly herds them instead into a close and torches it, sure that their screams will draw Papa Tembo, which they do. The prose is often colorful—“Only the carrion eaters had done well that year, the sly hyenas and gargoyle vultures lazily plying their putrescent trade”—but Campbell’s generalizations about Africa (e.g., “A world of magic and ancient savagery where life meant little,”) evoke a now-musty colonialism, and he adds characters more for didactic purposes than to enhance the plot: a scientist and his two teenage children to observe—at length—elephant behavior, and a pair of anti-poacher vigilantes from the previous book. They all come together in the smoke-filled climax in which Papa Tembo crushes the slobbering, gun-waving van der Wel into a pulp, then calmly allows the other humans to help the captured elephants escape. A long and tumid story, with little to see readers through beyond some lurid writing and, for those with a proclivity for such carnage, the expectation of gory just deserts. (glossary) (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-15-201727-5
Page count: 265pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998


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