Also by this author: 1st to Die, 2nd Chance, 3rd Degree, The Horsewoman, 4th of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment
Published by jimmy patterson on July 25, 2022
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James Patterson and award-winning author Ellen Banda-Aaku deliver an unforgettable story of a girl, an elephant, and their life-changing friendship. Clever, sensitive Jama likes elephants better than people. While her classmates gossip—especially about the new boy, Leku—twelve-year-old Jama takes refuge at the watering hole outside her village. There she befriends a baby elephant she names Mbegu, Swahili for seed. When Mbegu’s mother, frightened by poachers, stampedes, Jama and Mbegu are blamed for two deaths—one elephant and one human. Now Leku, whose mysterious and imposing father is head ranger at the conservancy, may be their only lifeline. Inspired by true events, The Elephant Girl is a moving exploration of the bonds between creatures and the power of belonging.
James Patterson has made his name by using his name to highlight the work of his coauthors. The Elephant Girl, a story about a young African girl who protects elephants from poachers even at the expense of being kicked out of her village, is no different. Ellen Banda-Aaku is an award-winning Zambian author whose passion for African literature is clear through the corpus of her writing. Sophia Krevoy, an elephant conservation activist, is also credited as an author.
The Elephant Girl is a children’s novel intended for mid to upper elementary students. It follows the story of 12-year-old Jama, who has always been a bit socially aloof. Considered odd by her peers, she discovers better companions in the elephants who drink at the watering hole outside the village. Jama is portrayed as someone connected to nature, but disconnected with her community. The former is fine, but the latter is quite scandalous in African communities. Jama’s favorite elephant is a baby she names Mbegu, Swahili for “seed.”
Things become dire when poachers scare the elephant herd, causing Mbegu’s mother to stampede. When the dust settles, the elephant is dead…but so is Jama’s mom. The people cry out for vengeance—not against the poachers, but against the elephants—and Jama is left to grieve her mother while defending her beloved Mbegu. From here, the story takes an unexpected twist. Jama and Mbegu are flown out of the village to an elephant sanctuary, where Jama—still just twelve—is given charge of Mbegu. There is a bit of a plot regarding the poachers, but I won’t spoil any elements of that story.
The Elephant Girl is fine. There are a few uses of harsh language—one “damn” and one “hell” respectively—that seemed out of place for children’s literature. The story is straightforward and simplistic, with the pivotal point of Jama and Mbegu going to live at an elephant sanctuary seeming more fantasy wish fulfillment than even trying to seem realistic. It fits its target audience and the conservation motif is one that is very important.