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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers learn about elephants, wildlife rehabilitation, and conservation. They also learn about the Maasai people and their customs and traditions.
Courage, compassion, and perseverance are important themes. Be true to yourself, your interests, and your dreams. Stand up for what's right even in the face of opposition. It's important to respect and conserve elephants and other endangered wild animals.
Positive Role Models
Jama is smart, brave, and caring. She loves and takes pride in her family and Maasai community. She's true to herself and her values despite criticism and opposition. She shows great compassion for elephants. Her friendship and empathy for Mbegu are life-saving. In turn, young adults in the conservation community provide Jama with the support and friendship she needs in order to overcome tragedy and rejection.
Jama is a 12-year-old Maasai girl living in a lively, tight-knit village. Characters in her community vary in age, gender, and personality. Some live a more traditional life than others. Jama's mother is strongly independent, starting a business to support her family in the aftermath of her husband's death, despite community pressure for her to marry again. In the conservationist community, Jama works with people who are Kenyan, of other African descent, and a White man.
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Violence & Scariness
Poachers and rangers carry and use guns. An adolescent character is beaten by his father. There's a tense confrontation between characters who are armed with guns, spears, and rocks. An adult character dies in a tragic accident. Two elephants are shot and killed in separate incidents. A juvenile elephant is injured when people attack it in retaliation for a villager's death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Jama's friends talk about boys they like and who they will marry. When Jama is an older teenager, she has a romantic relationship. She mentions getting her period.
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Characters use insults such as "fool," "stupid," and "idiot." One instance each of "damn" and "hell."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Elephant Girl -- by bestselling author James Patterson (Ali Cross) and award-winning Zambian author Ellen Banda-Aaku, with Sophia Krevoy -- is a powerful, inspiring coming-of-age story. It centers on Jama, a 12-year-old Maasai girl in Kenya who loves her family and community. She also loves the elephants she meets when visiting a secret hiding place near the watering hole. The story focuses on Jama's relationships with people and animals, the fate of the elephants, and wildlife conservation. Important themes include courage, compassion, and perseverance. Expect some violence and upsetting scenarios: Park rangers and poachers carry guns, and there's a tense standoff between characters armed with guns, spears, and rocks. Two elephants are shot and killed in separate incidents. Another elephant is badly injured. An adult character dies in a tragic accident, and an adolescent character is beaten by his father. There' also a bit of romance/talk about boys, and Jama mentions getting her period.
Is It Any Good?
This powerful, engaging, and suspenseful coming-of-age story is inspiring and heartwarming, despite some heartbreaking moments. At the center of The Elephant Girl is Jama, a smart, brave, and caring girl who perseveres despite challenges and tragedies. Jama's Maasai village and the wildlife rehabilitation center where she later works are vivid and interesting settings. Jama's relationship with the elephants, especially Mgebu, is beautifully portrayed. There's lots of interesting information about Maasai culture and traditions, elephants, and some aspects of wildlife conservation. Readers will also be inspired by Jama's courage, tenacity, and compassion as she stays true to herself and finds her way.
More sensitive readers may struggle with the level of tragedy, death, and cruelty, involving both humans and elephants, in the story.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.