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THE WORLD’S GREATEST ELEPHANT by Ralph Helfer

THE WORLD’S GREATEST ELEPHANT

By Ralph Helfer (Author) , Ted Lewin (Illustrator)

Age Range: 7 - 10

Pub Date: March 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-399-24190-6
Publisher: Philomel

A beautifully illustrated boy-and-his-elephant tale is dragged down by clunky storytelling and an overlong, literally incredible text. The eponymous elephant is Modoc, a female born at the same time as her trainer’s baby boy, Bram. Bram and Modoc grow up together, performing in a German circus. But when the Wundercircus is sold to a ruthless American businessman who wants only the animals, separation looms. Bram stows away on the animal transport, and when the ship founders in a storm, he takes the opportunity to escape with Modoc. They float together for days, landing on the coast of India—how a ship bound from Germany to the United States could founder anywhere within floating distance of India is just one of many fatal credibility problems the story deals the reader. After a very long series of peregrinations and separations, the two friends are reunited at the compound of the author, a wild-animal trainer who clearly loves his elephants but needs serious editing. No amount of Lewin’s beautiful renderings of the elephant can save this effort. (Picture book/nonfiction. 7-10)