An elephant’s lifelong journey from the island of Sumatra to an American traveling circus, a zoo and finally a sanctuary is recounted in this graceful and poignant story.
Anju’s early idyll in her natural habitat is abruptly halted when, at the age of five, she is taken from her family and forced into the demanding life of a circus elephant, then placed within the confinement of a zoo. Now, 50 years later, Anju is being led and coaxed on another journey, one that her mahout Vincent promises will help her retire with dignity and safety. Butler’s realistic paintings in acrylic and colored pencil deliver a soft, hazy muted quality that provides balance to the gentle and often lyrical narration, which highlights Anju’s flashback memories of her childhood life with fellow young elephant Lali. “The rhythmic, lapping waters of the surrounding Indian Ocean and South China Sea were their island lullaby. Closing their long-lashed eyelids and lying together with their families, Anju and Lali slept in the tall, ticklish grasses, heartbeat-to-heartbeat.” Anju enters her new home with trepidation yet is welcomed by a kind mahout and new elephant companion who greet her with encouraging tenderness. An elephant Q&A and information on helping elephants provides background and a means to action for engaged readers.
This heartfelt, humane vignette provides just the right details to appeal to animal-loving children. (Picture book. 5-9)