Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Elephant Run

Elephant Run

Roland Smith
For ages 12 and up
Hyperion, 2007   ISBN: 978-1423104025

Nick's mother has decided that her son simply cannot stay in London any longer. The Germans are bombing the city every day and it is just too dangerous. And so she sends Nick to Burma, where his father runs a teak plantation. What neither of them know is that the Japanese have already begun to take over Burma and the situation there is almost as bad as the one in Europe.

Nick is not on his father's plantation long before he realizes that something is very wrong. Some of the mahouts – the men who work and care for the plantation elephants – think that the Japanese forces will give Burma its independence. Other people, like Nick's father, have heard what the Japanese have done in China and Singapore and they fear that life in Burma will be very hard with the Japanese in charge. Nick's father decides to send Nick and the daughter of one of the Mahouts, Mya, to India where he hopes they will be safe. Unfortunately Nick and his father are captured before they can get out of the area. Nick's father is sent to a POW camp and Nick is kept as a hostage on the plantation. Mya is put to work as a servant.

Beaten and made to work hard, Nick wonders if he will ever be able to escape. His captors are very careful to keep an eye on him at all times but they do not count on the actions of Hilltop, the very old and very wily Buddhist monk who "speaks to elephants" and who knows the jungle intimately.

Readers who are interested in World War II will be fascinated by this unique story. They will discover what it might have been like to be a teenage European boy stuck in Burma during the Japanese invasion of that country. They will also learn all about how elephants are used to work timber plantations in Asia – a practice that still goes on today.

Carefully researched and wonderfully written, this is a novel that young people will find hard to set aside once they have begun reading it. With many plot twists and surprises, the author keeps readers interested and engaged all the way through the book.