A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Tua and the Elephant offers an age-appropriate window on Thai society and features some common Thai phrases in the dialogue. Young readers will encounter customs that are quite different from their everyday reality -- all boys spend time in a monastery, for example -- and may also have a chance to consider some social issues. For example, one boy who helps Tua is abused by his peers because he had to leave school to support his family.
Family, friendship, commitment, and trust all get high marks and big rewards here -- and the most villainous schemes the evildoers can come up with are no match for these forces.
Positive Role Models
Tua is brave and ingenious; she and Pohn-Pohn prove to each other the value of their friendship in many ways as the story progresses. Many of Tua's aunties and uncles (especially the actress Auntie Orchid) dispense help, humor, and words of wisdom as the need arises. Mae Noi, who operates the elephant sanctuary, is kind, determined, and resourceful. A number of kids Tua's own age help her and teach her interesting things as she and Pohn-Pohn try to get to safety.
Violence & Scariness
The abuse of elephants comes up pretty regularly, but most of it has happened in the past and Tua witnesses very little of it directly. The elephant abusers kidnap a child for ransom.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tua and the Elephant is the story of an intrepid 10-year-old girl in Thailand who enlists strangers, neighbors, and lots of uncles and aunties in an unplanned quest to rescue a young elephant from her abusers. It immerses the reader in the culture of another country and offers insights on how people live in a different part of the world. The abuse of elephants is mentioned regularly, but most of it has happened in the past and Tua witnesses very little of it directly. The elephant abusers kidnap a child for ransom.
Is It Any Good?
Besides the appealing title heroines, this is a gratifying tale of doing the right thing, with a lot of help from interesting characters and quite a few moments to tickle young readers' funnybone. The simple, engaging illustrations by award-winning artist Taeeyun Yoo and first-time author R.P. Harris' literary style give the book a pleasantly retro feel -- a good fit for a moral universe in which perils abound, but so do clever friends who save the day.
Harris, who lives in Shanghai, China, does a great job of immersing the reader in the sights, sounds, customs, and cuisine of Thailand, and includes common Thai phrases in the dialogue. (The book would have benefited from a glossary and pronunciation guide.)
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