The Elephant Keeper: Caring for Orphaned Elephants in Zambia

illus. by Pedro Covo. 48p. (CitizenKid). glossary. photos. websites. Kids Can. Oct. 2017. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781771385619.
Gr 3–5—Based on a true story, Ruurs recounts how a teenager named Aaron helped rescue Zambezi, an orphaned baby elephant. His heroism prompted an invitation to visit the calf at the elephant orphanage that took her in. This visit, in turn, results in a job when it emerges that Aaron is the only one who can get the calf to drink her milk. Together with Covo's lush evocative paintings, Ruurs's narrative builds a strong emotional connection between readers and the subject—this is a tale designed to pull at the heartstrings of readers. At the same time, however, it presents an explanation of why people hunt elephants. Yes, ivory poachers seek to sell tusks at great profit, but elephants also sometimes trample crops while seeking food, leading to tense relationships with surrounding people. Interspersed between the three chapters that make up Aaron's story are informational spreads, illustrated with photographs, providing fairly basic information about elephants, poaching, and conservation efforts. Back matter includes a "How You Can Help" section.
VERDICT Although the informational content is too sparse for report purposes, this volume would be perfect for introducing a unit on elephants or conservation and is a recommended purchase.

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