A young elephant must reconnect with his herd and face his fears in this middle-grade novel.
Thunder, an African pygmy elephant, lives with his mother and the rest of his tribe in Africa. Every day, the tribe wanders through the savannah looking for food while Thunder and his friends play. The young elephant is particularly close to his mother, who teaches him all he needs to know, including how to communicate and act within the herd and how to protect himself from dangers that surround him—especially the “Uprights,” which is what elephants call humans. He leads a happy life until a poacher named Drago decides that he wants the elephants—and the rest of their animal friends—for himself. Drago captures some of them, but when his vehicle crashes, Thunder and a parrot named Penelope escape. The terrified Thunder misses his loved ones, but Soma, a tough-as-nails rhino, offers to help, and they all set off on a quest to find Thunder’s herd. Of course, it’s not easy, as weather and other wild beasts make the journey difficult; also, Drago is still set on capturing as many beasts as possible. Will Thunder make it back to his mother, or will Drago destroy his herd before he can find it? Shein and Reker (The Forgotten Ornament, 2012, etc.) paint quite a harrowing picture at times; Thunder’s quest is a stressful one, and some children may feel overwhelmed if they read it all in one sitting. That being said, the whole book is a lesson in perseverance and determination, which readers of all ages could stand to learn. The prose is thick with lovely descriptions of Thunder’s home and the various places he visits, and his fears will be relatable to the younger set. The story is also a great introduction to the concept of preserving the planet and its species. In a wonderful touch, an appendix gives contact information for a variety of organizations that are trying to stop the practice of poaching and protect the environment. Hopefully, this work will inspire young and old readers alike to do their parts to help save the beautiful creatures of Africa.
A thrilling, inspiring tale of bravery and family.