Twelve-year-old Ben Forest expects little from life that morning in 1796. Bound to the cruel Enos Hardin, his existence is a series of beatings and scoldings and there is only his dog Ruff to console him. When Sarrengo, a malicious animal trainer threatens the dog, Ben runs away and becomes the assistant of Mr. Owen who is taking on tour Little Burma, the first elephant to enter this country. Sarrengo pursues the troupe hoping to injure the animal, but finally he is defeated and Ben is legally put in the charge of his benevolent employer. Robert McClung, who has previously written non-fiction animal stories for young readers, handles his story pleasantly, interpolating the details of animal life with finesse.