Title: Tony and His Elephants, Best Friends Forever
Text and photos by: Cathleen Burnham
Published by: Crickhollow and Crispin Books, April 2017
Themes/Topics: elephants, baby animals, environmental conservation, Thailand, youth activism, wild animal rescue
Genre: Nonfiction – 32 pages
Suitable for ages: 7-11
Opening Text (comes after a double-pages spread illustrating the location of Thailand in S E Asia and the location of Tony’s camp in the north of the country):
It was Songkran, Thailand’s New Year celebration. Crowds of cheering people waved flags. Songkran also was the hottest time of year: All across Thailand, people celebrated with water fights.
Tony and His Elephants: Best Friends Forever! is a photo documentary animal rescue story set at a Thai Mountain Elephant sanctuary.
Eight year-old Tony’s family runs a small elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand near the mekong River. One day while spending time in the city he spots a young adult and baby elephant clearly suffering from being chained up. He persuades his dad to rescue them and take them home with them. He cares for two young elephants, Baby Pumpuii and Nam Cho, feeding them, training them and becoming their friend.
When a dangerous jungle fire breaks out and his parents are busy trying to put it out, he alone takes the initiative to lead his two proteges to safety higher up on the mountain.
I love this whole series about young conservationists. Faced with animal suffering and environmental problems, children as well as adults tend to respond with, “There’s nothing I can do.” These stories prove otherwise. Tony is a regular little boy with a warm, caring family who love animals, just like many kids in the West. This story inspires kids to think of how they can make a difference.
Like the first two books in this series (Doyli to the Rescue: Saving Baby Monkeys in the Amazon and Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica), the narrative and photos show a kid with compassion and understanding about the needs of wild animals. Tony recognizes that the two young elephants need love and play as well as shelter and food. I think his courage in the face of a wild fire will challenge lots of young readers.
Burnham skillfully blends her conservation message with insights into the Thai culture and the daily life this family actively involved in a small-scale animal-rescue effort. This is a great book to purchase now to celebrate Earth Day with your family or class in a couple of weeks, and for any conservation units you have.
- The elephant rescue sanctuary in Tennessee
- World Association of Kids and Animals
Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.