Tony and His Elephants – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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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.

 Why I like This Book:

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.


Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

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8 Responses to Tony and His Elephants – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. I love this latest book by Cathleen Burnham about elephant rescues. You don’t know how close I came to releasing my review of this book today. Like you, I love this series of kids making a difference around the globe. Excellent review!

  2. Joanna says:

    🙂 I had wanted to run another one for poetry month but I still haven’t received it from the publisher. I also have two already scheduled for Earth Day week!

    • Then I’ll hold mine for Earth Day week1. It’s good that we didn’t publish the same day as this will give Cathleen more publicity. We both love this WAKA series for kids. Next time I’ll check with you. 🙂

  3. Joanna, I love the message that we can all do “something” to make the world better. Got the book on hold at my library. Thanks for highlighting it!

  4. Barbara says:

    Oh wow! I haven’t heard of this book. It sounds amazing. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m definitely going to look for that one.

  5. Andrea Mack says:

    What a great story to show kids they can make a difference!

  6. Wendy Greenley says:

    Just WOW on many levels. Thanks for sharing this book.

  7. Oh my goodness. When I saw the title my heart was in my mouth. (I’m writing a pb with a similar title.) Luckily mine is fiction and a girl mc. I should have a look at this one in any case. Thanks for sharing Joanna.

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