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by Helen Cowcher & illustrated by Helen Cowcher

Age Range: 5 - 9

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-374-31774-4
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Desert-dwelling elephants journey south through the “Elephant's Doorway” toward Burkina Faso when the dry season begins in Mali. On their way they have their usual peaceful encounters with Tuareg, Dolon and Fula peoples and are surprised by a jeepload of tourists.

Continuing her attention to the problems of coexistence between the natural world and man, Cowcher (Jaguar, 1997, etc.) introduces this small band of northern elephants that survive in the arid Sahel thanks to their 300-mile annual migration. Her text is simple, a straightforward description of their journey interrupted by three different kinds of human encounters. Striking watercolor paintings fill double-page spreads, providing an artist's vision of the world of the elephants and of the people who live alongside them. A map of the elephants' journey begins and ends the book, though no larger map puts these two countries in their African context for readers unfamiliar with the geography. A lengthy set of author's notes adds information about the elephants, the African peoples mentioned, the importance of radio to desert peoples and the printed textiles shown in the illustrations. These notes, rather than the narrative, provide background for the pictures. Readers or listeners without previous experience with this part of the world may need that help to better understand the story.

Visually appealing, but more likely to puzzle than inform. (Picture book. 5-9)