Tua and the Elephant

R.P. Harris, illus. by Taeeun Yoo. Chronicle, $16.99 (204p) ISBN 978-0-8118-7781-7
Harris’s debut, inspired by a trip to the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, follows nine-year-old Tua and her relationship with an abused elephant, Pohn-Pohn. Tua, whose mother is a hardworking waitress, lives an independent life in Chiang Mai, near a popular night market where she finds—and falls in love with—Pohn-Pohn. The elephant is under the charge of two thieving scoundrels and wordlessly begs Tua to help her escape. As quick-witted and adventurous as she is warmhearted, Tua undergoes hair-raising escapades to keep Pohn-Pohn out of the villains’ grasp and find her a sanctuary. Engagingly filled with Thai vocabulary, food, and customs, and peopled by helpful family members, chums, and kind monks, the book maintains a quick, suspenseful pace. The final chapters wrap up the story a little too neatly, however, and border on an infomercial about the sanctuary for abused Asian elephants. Nonetheless, Harris’s story, enlivened by Yoo’s gently evocative woodcut illustrations in violet and mustard, avoids overt anthropomorphism of Pohn-Pohn while maintaining the sweet connection between elephant and girl. Ages 8–12. Illustrator’s agent: Holly McGhee, Pippin Properties. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/02/2012
Release date: 04/01/2012
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