In this true story, the African elephant Maggie languishes in an Alaskan zoo until she is transported to the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s facility in California.
The first sentence says, “Once, elephants lived in Alaska—two of them.” The text quickly makes it clear that, despite the book’s title, elephants are not indigenous to Alaska, and the two elephants lived in a zoo. Maggie was a baby when she was transported there to be a companion to an older, Asian elephant named Annabelle. According to the text, the cold climate did not hurt the animals, but Annabelle’s death left Maggie bereft. She took to carrying around a tire as her friend. The paragraph devoted to Maggie’s activities with the tire is entertaining until its concluding sentence, which describes how zookeepers daily find “lonely Maggie and her tire, waiting.” Readers learn of the many efforts made by zookeepers to help the pining pachyderm, with the eventual solution being a complicated move to PAWS, where “Maggie is never alone” and evidently “happy.” The text is clear and concise, intersplicing general facts about elephants, behavioral conditioning, and PAWS with Maggie’s story. Further information is offered at the tale’s end, including a Q-and-A with Maggie’s keeper at PAWS that appropriately complicates the elephant’s “happiness.” The art is accurate but not particularly compelling, with a stiff, retro quality. Registered-trademark symbols in the large-print text are an unwelcome intrusion—do readers really need to know what kinds of candy Maggie ate?
A solid if not stellar addition to a growing picture-book genre. (Informational picture book. 6-9)