TO CATCH AN ELEPHANT by Vanessa Westgate


by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 5 - 8
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A child in a pith helmet goes hunting for elephants.

A white boy with blue hair resembling grass heads to Africa and hires a guide, who also appears to be white, and in a zebra-patterned vehicle they set off to catch an elephant. When the boy and his guide find their prey minding his own business and eating breakfast, the text strongly cautions against bothering an elephant. Nevertheless, the boy successfully nets him, and the elephant’s herd’s attempts to rescue their family member are to no avail. Once home, the elephant doesn’t fit anywhere and becomes a general nuisance to the boy’s neighbors. Eventually, the elephant becomes homesick and refuses to eat, which is when the boy has an epiphany that the elephant should be with his family. Reuniting the elephant with his family proves to be difficult, as “all elephant herds tend to look alike.” The boy is heartbroken to leave the elephant, and the elephant is depicted as crying for its captor, but the boy consoles himself with the belief that the elephant is “back home in Africa where he belongs.” This unfortunate book, painted in cheerful yellows and blues, completely overlooks the reality that poaching and rehoming have rendered African elephants near extinction. Reading the elephant as a metaphor for African humans, it’s even more unfortunate. With many countries throughout the continent of Africa struggling to reclaim the resources and dignity stolen for generations, this book plays it for laughs.

A hard pass. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-60537-432-1
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Clavis
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2019


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