Tua and the Elephant

Book Reviews

Tua and the Elephant.
Harris, R. P. (author).  Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo.
May 2012. 204p. Chronicle, hardcover, $16.99 (9780811877817). Grades 3-5.
REVIEW.  First published June 11, 2012 (Booklist Online).

In this modern Thai adventure story, 10-year-old Tua meets an elephant as she wanders her neighborhood night market. She conspires to rescue the animal from its abusive mahouts, but setting an elephant free is simple compared with finding a safe place to hide it: “Kitchens with elephants in them are overcrowded rooms.” On the advice of her aunt Orchid, Tua and Pohn-Pohn the elephant attempt to reach an elephant sanctuary and presumed safety. They encounter many adventures and new friends on their journey, always with the elephant’s former owners in hot pursuit. The mahouts are drawn broadly, providing comic relief and keeping the tone light. Vivid descriptions, a heavy sprinkling of Thai words in the dialogue, and Yoo’s evocative full-page art, keep the setting firmly in Thailand without feeling overtly educational or heavy-handed. Tua’s generous nature and impetuous actions make her a spunky, endearing heroine. Hand this to fans of Kate DiCamillo, those looking for a glimpse of life in modern Asia, or anyone who enjoys a rollicking animal adventure story. — Suzanne Harold

Horn Book Guide:
Harris, R. P. Tua and the Elephant
   204 pp. Chronicle 2012. ISBN 978-0-8118-7781-7
(3) 4-6 Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Tua, a go-getting Thai girl, goes to great lengths to save an elephant from its abusive owners. With her community’s help, she repeatedly outsmarts the buffoonish duo until she finally gets the elephant to safety in an animal sanctuary. Warm, two-color linoleum block print illustrations accompany a sweet story that incorporates many details about Thai culture.

Reprinted from The Horn Book Magazine [or Guide, as applicable] by permission of The Horn Book, Inc., www.hbook.com

School Library Journal:
HARRIS, R. P. Tua and the Elephant. illus. by Taeeun Yoo. 204p. Chronicle. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-8118-7781-7. LC 2011030675.

Gr 3-6–Children will be smitten with Harris’s endearing story about a tender friendship between a girl and the elephant whose life she is trying to save. Nine-year-old Tua (Peanut) lives with her mother in Chiang Mai, Thailand, a lively place where everyone seems to know and watch out for one another. One day at the bustling night market, she encounters an elephant being forcefully led by two sleazy con men who are masquerading as mahouts. Tua and the elephant connect and quickly forge a strong emotional bond. Determined to rescue her new friend from a horrific situation, she deftly sneaks her away from her captors. Navigating the crowded streets is no easy feat with an elephant in tow, but they eventually end up at the house of Tua’s charismatic Auntie Orchid. Though sympathetic, she is unable to harbor the fugitive pachyderm and directs her niece to a Buddhist temple that has walls tall enough to hide the large animal. At the temple, Tua and the newly named Pohn-Pohn (Double-Happiness) are told that the best place for an elephant is a sanctuary run by a compassionate animal lover. Tua endeavors to get Pohn-Pohn to safety while avoiding the criminal mahouts, who have been pursuing them all along. Yoo’s vibrant full-page illustrations, rendered in charcoal and linoleum-block printing, perfectly complement and elevate Harris’s remarkable tale. A charming story sure to capture the hearts of young readers.–Lalitha Nataraj, Escondido Public Library, CA


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