Earth Day, April 22, 2017
Tony and His Elephants: Best Friends Forever!
Cathleen Burnham, Author and Photographer
Crickhollow Books, Nonfiction, Apr. 22, 2017
Suitable for Ages: 7-12
Themes: Elephant Rescue, Sanctuary, Thailand, Environmental Conservation, Science, Nature, Kids Making a Difference
Opening: It was Songkran, Thailand’s New Year celebration. Crowds of cheering people waved flags. Songkran also was the hottest time of the year. All across Thailand, people celebrated with water fights. In the midst of the festivities were two little elephants: Baby Pumpuii and five-year-old Nam Cho. They were chained side by side.
Synopsis: Tony is an eight-year-old boy, whose family runs a small elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand. He becomes involved in the care of two young elephants, Baby Pumpuii and Nam Cho, rescued from an urban setting to a new life in the forests. But life in the wilds is not without its own drama and danger. Tony is quickly drawn into a deep and lasting relationship with these amazing and sensitive animals.
Why I like this book:
- This is the third photodocumentary book by Cathleen Burnham featuring children involved in wild animal rescue activities. Her stories carry an inspiring and powerful message that you don’t have to be an adult to make a difference. Children like Tony are proof of how one small act of caring can have an important impact in helping wildlife in danger. It has become Burnham’s mission to share the stories of young environmental activists with other children.
- Burnham’s book is a compassionate and well-crafted story. Her beautiful photographs document Tony’s life and work at the family elephant conservation center in northern Thailand. Tony mixes powdered elephant milk into a huge baby bottle and teaches Baby Pumpuii how to drink. He sleeps in a loft above the new elephants so that he can feed the baby four times a night. He climbs onto Nam Cho’s back and trains her in how to move forward, stop, and turn as he guides her along a dirt path into the jungle. They go for a swim in Mekong River. When a fire breaks out, Tony leads all the elephants to safety in the cool mountaintops, while his parents battle the fire.
- Burnham’s book helps children understand and respect the interconnection between humans and all life. She introduces children to “cultural learning, language, animal facts, geography, and laws intended to protect wild animals from black market trade or from being abused to serve human interests.” Like Tony, children worldwide will be inspired to do their part to make a difference in their communities.
Tony feeds Baby Pumpuii a bottle of milk. Photo Courtesy of Cathleen Burnham
Favorite Lines: “These will be your elephants, Tony,” said his father. “Forever?” asked Tony. “Until the day you die, Tony, just like any mahout,” said his father.
It was the beginning of a lifelong bond. Tony, Nam Cho, and Baby Pumpuii would love and protect one another for the rest of their lives.
Resources: Make sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of Tony and His Elephants. To learn more about the amazing things children are doing to protect wildlife around the globe, visit the World Association of Kids and Animals (WAKA) and get involved. Check out The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, to learn about the retired circus elephants living in this safe 2,700-acre refuge in companionship with other elephants. For more ideas about how you can make a difference in your community, visit the Earth Day website.
*View Joanna Marple’s inspiring review of Tony and His Elephants on her website.
Cathleen Burnham is a journalist, writer and wildlife photographer. In addition to Tony and His Elephants, Burnham is the author of Doyli to the Rescue, and the Tortuga Squad. They are the first three books in a series of six books that profile wildlife preservation efforts being undertaken by kids around the globe.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers share a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.
**I was provided with a copy of Tony and His Elephants in exchange for a fair and honest review.