Star the Elephant

Holt. (Surviving the Wild). Apr. 2022. 112p. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781250784995.
Gr 1-3–Part of Lai’s new wildlife-focused young readers graphic novel series, this tale centers on Star, a pink-hued, rambunctious young elephant who loves to frolic in the river and look for food with his herd. When a dwindling food supply forces the herd to split up, Star sets off with his mother and aunt to find a better place to graze, only to run into human deforestation efforts. A prolonged swim to a nearby island leads to more drama. Star must avoid capture by game wardens, which forces him to break his mother’s one rule: stay where she can see him. Staying safe has never been trickier, and Star wonders if he will ever see his mother again. Pulled in by simple yet adorable illustrations—which have a childlike, hand-drawn feel—young readers will eagerly follow Star’s journey as he explores his rapidly expanding world and works hard to survive. The young elephant’s desire for independence in the face of his mother’s desire to keep him safe is especially relatable. Lai’s narrative highlights daily elephant life, the impact of deforestation, and the dual-edged nature of human interactions within wildlife ecosystems. After the main narrative, a section details the real-life inspiration behind Star’s story (in 1990, three bull elephants in Malaysia in search of a new home traveled to Singapore) and provides eco-friendly tips for young readers.
VERDICT Don’t be fooled by the cute package; despite the adorable trappings, this tender tale packs an all too timely environmental message.

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