Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The World's Greatest Elephant

The World's Greatest Elephant

Ralph Helfer
Illustrator:   Ted Lewin 
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Penguin, 2006   ISBN: 0399241906

Many years ago, on a farm in Germany, a baby boy and baby elephant were born at the same hour on the same day. Joseph the circus elephant trainer named his son Bram, and he named the baby elephant Modoc. His hope was that the elephant and the boy would “always be together,” and this is what happened. Modoc and Bram were inseparable.

The boy and his elephant grew up, and when they were around ten years old, Bram and Modoc – who was the biggest elephant in the circus – performed together. Not long after this, the circus was sold, and the new owner announced that he was moving the Wundercircus to New York. The owner had no interest in employing Bram or the other circus folk. Desperate not to be separated from Modoc, Bram begged the new owner to let him go with Modoc, but the new owner refused to hire “a kid” to work with the enormous elephant. Bram refused to give up though, and when Modoc was loaded on a ship to go to New York, he secretly went with her.

The journey was uneventful until a terrible storm blew up. Loose cargo in the hold tore a hole in the side of the ship, and it was not long before Bram and a few other survivors were floating in the ocean. To everyone’s amazement, Modoc survived and with her help, the people stayed afloat until help arrived. Unfortunately, Bram and Modoc’s trials were not over yet.

This wonderfully powerful tale is loosely based on the stories of several captive elephants who had extraordinary lives. Readers who have a fondness for animals will find the story thoroughly captivating.