Tua and the Elephant
Author: R.P. Harris
Illustrator: Taeeun Yoo
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: April 2012
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: Ten-year-old Tua (Thai for peanut) has everything she needs at home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, except for one thing she has always wanted: a sister. In the market one day, Tua makes an accidental acquaintance one with wise, loving eyes, remarkable strength, and a very curious trunk. And when Tua meets Pohn-Pohn, it is clear this elephant needs her help. Together, the unusual team sets off on a remarkable journey to escape from Pohn-Pohn's vile captors. From the bustling night market to the hallowed halls of a Buddhist temple and finally, to the sanctuary of an elephant refuge, this clever girl and her beloved companion find that right under their noses is exactly what each has been searching for: a friend.
What I Think: I love the wonderful descriptions in this book. It is a book that is set, for me, in such a unique place that is very different from where I live and have lived all of my life. The setting Harris brings to life in Tua and the Elephant is beautiful - he definitely brings a voice that makes the book feel like it is a story being told and he also so seamlessly captures the culture in the story. I love Tua, she's just a sweet kid who keeps herself busy visiting relatives at the market until she finds a hole in a wall. It beckons to her and she lets her heart guide her on a journey to help her new elephant friend.
I am an animal lover so I am naturally drawn to stories about animals and about helping them. I think elephants are beautiful creatures. They are so smart. I love to read about them. This is a great book to share with students and to remind them that even though they are young, they can still make choices to help animals. I do have to say that how Tua helps Pohn-Pohn initially might be a good topic of discussion. She is helping the elephant but she does something I think is somewhat wrong. It reminds me a little of the discussions we have had about I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. Is it okay to do something wrong if you feel that it is justified?
Read Together: Grades 4 - 6
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 6
Read With: Non-fiction about elephants and/or Thailand, I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen (adult)
Snatch of Text: "Strings of bare lightbulbs crisscrossed overhead, igniting the street in a blaze. Vendor's carts crowded both sides of the street, hawking their wares to the people strolling down the middle." p. 12
"Behind where the boxes and crates had been stacked higher than a brown dog can jump - and gaping like old Grandma Orn's toothless mouth - there, looking just big enough for Tua to squeeze through...was a hole.
If walls could talk, this one would have invited Tua to step through the hole to the other side." p. 22
Mentor Text For: Descriptive Writing, Characterization, Visualization, Voice, Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you did something wrong but you felt your reasons for your action were worthy of the action. Start a story by finishing this sentence, "If walls could talk, ..."
Topics Covered: Friendship, Adventure, Help, Compassion, Family, Culture, Elephants, Story-Telling, Courage