The Secret Elephant -- Book Review of a Story from WWII


Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Yesterday was Earth Day, and we shared some beautiful puzzles with pictures from an Asian rainforest and a tropical coral reef. We also shared some facts about both places and how they need to be protected. The Asian elephants were pictured on the rainforest puzzle, and I mentioned that they are critically endangered. Today I get to share a brand new picture book (released today) about one Asian elephant and World War II. The book is The Secret Elephant by Ellan Rankin. It is based on a true story and is recommended for ages 4 to 8. 

From the Publisher:

A remarkable friendship between a baby elephant and her keeper shows that kindness is never forgotten. Inspired by a true story, this uplifting picture book is a perfect read for animal lovers of all ages.

While carefree monkeys dangle in trees, powerful lions quietly sunbathe, and majestic giraffes walk back and forth, a terrible war looms on the horizon and changes everything. People stop coming to the zoo and most of the animals huddle together with their mates in their different enclosures-- except for one baby elephant that was all alone. As bombs shake the ground and flashes of orange light burn across the sky, the solitary elephant grows more and more afraid and confused. Her keeper understood and spends as much time with her elephant as she can. And when it becomes impossible to stay in the enclosure, the keeper makes the daring choice to bring the elephant home.

But it’s hard to hide an elephant, even a baby one, and it gets even harder as the elephant grows. After a time, the elephant is ordered back to the zoo. Still, the kind-hearted keeper could not abandon her friend, so she sets up house right alongside the elephant for the remainder of the war.

Many years later, when the keeper no longer works at the zoo, she returns to visit her friend. Her friend, much older now as well, remembers the keeper and her brave kindness.

Inspired by a remarkable true story at the Belfast Zoo during WW11 perfect for fans of The One and Only Ivan and the award-winning documentary The Elephant Whisperers.

From Me:

This book is so sweet. It tells this amazing story of friendship, love, and care during World War II. The story takes place in Belfast Zoo. A baby Asian elephant is the only Asian elephant at the zoo. Her caregiver is a kind woman who spends a good amount of time with the young elephant. She realizes that the bombs go off, the baby elephant with her big ears will be scared. She goes into the zoo after hours to be with her and try to keep her calm. As the bombs become more frequent the zookeeper sneaks the elephant out of the zoo each night and back into the zoo each morning. The war keeps going on and the baby elephant keeps growing. Eventually she breaks through a neighbor's fence. The neighbor tells the head zookeeper and now the elephant has to stay at the zoo. Her zookeeper however comes back to the zoo during the bombings to make sure the elephant is not scared. It is such a sweet story to share with kids. 

The kids are going to love this book. The story itself is fun and the pictures of the baby elephant at the zookeeper's house will amuse them. You can see in the sample page above some of the fun. This book is perfect for animal lovers or to talk about Asian elephants, zoos or endangered animals. It is also a book to talk about the war and how far some people went to help others. At the end of the book are pages that look like newspaper articles that tell us about how the story was discovered and about the zookeeper, Denise Weston Austin. She was one of the first female zookeepers at Belfast Zoo. She even visited the elephant after she stopped working at the zoo. This is such a fun book to be read at home or in school. I hope you will check it out!