Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Balarama: A Royal Elephant

Balarama: A Royal Elephant

Ted Lewin
Illustrator:   Betsy Lewin 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Lee & Low Books, 2014   ISBN: 978-1620141861

Betsy and Ted Lewin love to travel around the world to experience different cultures and to have adventures. One year they decide to go to India, and they travel to the Karapur Forest to see elephants. They visit a camp where working elephants live with their mahouts. Their guide, who is called Sundar, tells the visitors about Drona, the Royal Elephant who will lead the annual Maharaja of Mysore’s parade on the last day of Dasara. Dasara is a religious festival that “celebrates the triumph of good over evil.” Being chosen to be the Royal Elephant is a great honor, and when they meet Drona, Ted and Betsy are so impressed with a beautiful big animal that they decide to return in a year so that they can see Drona lead the parade.

When Betsy and Ted return to southern India, they are very saddened to find out that Drona died due to a tragic accident. A new elephant has been chosen to lead the parade, an elephant called Balarama. Betsy and Ted are eager to meet Balarama, who will be leading the parade for the first time in just a short while. What follows is a remarkable spectacle that thrills and delights the Ted and Betsy.

In this remarkable book, Ted and Best Lewin capture the essence of a unique event that holds a special place in the hearts of the Indian people. Their sensitive and exciting account is a tribute to the elephants and their trainers who take part in the Dasara, and it will give young readers a sense of how important and beloved these elephants are.