Thursday, February 12, 2015

Elephant Run by Roland Smith

To escape London bombings, Nick Freestone is sent to live on his father’s teak plantation deep in the Burmese jungle. Once there Nick develops a close friendship with Mya, a girl longing to become a mahout, or elephant rider. However, WWII catches up to Nick when the planation is invaded by the Japanese and both Nick’s father and Mya’s brother are sent to a labor camp. With the help of Hilltop—Mya’s Buddhist monk great-grandfather—and Hannibal, a dangerous bull elephant, Nick and Mya escape the planation disguised as novice monks. Nick and Mya's mission is to rescue their family members, but they must travel through dangerous jungles crawling with enemy soldiers.

Smith expertly transports readers into the Burmese wild. In Burma elephants help shape not only the land, but also its people and culture. Nick learns to respect the giant mammals, especially when those elephants both threaten and save Nick’s life. From a historical standpoint, readers can see how far-reaching WWII spread as they begin in battered London and travel across the globe to a newly conquered Burma. But even in the face of war there were still good people on the enemy's side, like the character of Sonji, the sympathetic, haiku-loving Japanese soldier. A wonderful WWII historical-fiction read for ages 10 and up.

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