Sam, nearly 14, has spent her life living and working with her father on a North American elephant sanctuary. Elephantine changes are brewing.
Sam knows how to drive a truck, toss bales of hay, and communicate effectively with elephants. Everything has been wonderful except for the sanctuary’s financial struggles, but now an anonymous sponsor has donated a huge sum of money to artificially inseminate three female elephants, and Daisy Mae is carrying a baby. Meanwhile, Sam is uncomfortable to the point of rudeness around impeccably dressed Joyce, her father’s lawyer and love interest. Each plotline has something in it to challenge readers. Animal lovers may wince at the Caesarian section that kills Daisy Mae; for feminists, some of the ways in which Sam and Joyce bond may elicit cringes. (Isn’t it enough that both of them care deeply about both Jack and the elephants?) Motherless Sam’s nurturing of the new elephant orphan adds poignancy. Fascinating elephant information is sometimes awkwardly inserted into dialogue but at other times is gracefully delivered by Sam’s direct address to readers. After a stunning revelation almost 200 pages into the book—which nudges the genre toward science fiction—the plot becomes more intriguing. Will the rich, eccentric James Mercury help or hinder Sam and Jack? What will be the fate of Burma, a newly arrived elephant with a history of dangerous behavior? Characters are default white except for one dark-skinned vet.
Cliffhangers and elephants will keep readers engaged. (Fiction. 10-12)