The Girl Who Stole an Elephant

Peachtree. Mar. 2021. 256p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781682632857.
Gr 4-6–Being chased through a jungle by the King’s guards is just one of the dangers facing Chaya, the 12-year-old Sri Lankan heroine of Farook’s fast-paced and exhilarating novel. After stealing the Queen’s jewels (in a Robin Hood scheme) and the King’s royal elephant, Chaya escapes into the jungle with her two friends Neel and Nour. She is a brave and spirited girl who will stop at nothing to save her friends and her village from the King, who cares more for his own riches than his villagers. Along the way, Chaya frees Neel from the palace prison, confronts leeches, teaches Nour to survive in the jungle, and stays one step ahead, physically and mentally, from her pursuers. One of the many delights of this novel is the sparkling description of Chaya’s rural Sri Lankan village, including the many references to colorful fruits and trees. More rewarding is Chaya’s growth. While her intent is honorable, her theft jeopardizes the lives of her friends and family, but over the course of her journey, and with the support of strong secondary characters Neel and Nour, she develops more empathy.
VERDICT A rich and joyful adventure story for those who enjoy daring escapades in a fairy-tale setting.

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