Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Faithful Elephants

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Here at Teach Mentor Texts we are always looking for more ways to support teachers! We've found that teachers seem to be constantly on the lookout for great nonfiction. We know we are! To help with this undying quest for outstanding non-fiction, we are excited to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detectives. Every Wednesday, you'll find a non-fiction review here - although it may not always be a picture book review. Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy to see what non-fiction others have to share, too. 

Title: Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People and War
Author: Yukio Tsuchiya; Translated by Tomoko Tsuchiya Dykes
Illustrator: Ted Lewin
Publisher: Sandpiper
Publication Date: 1988
Genre/Format: Nonfiction/Picture Book
Goodreads Summary: A zookeeper recounts the story of John, Tonky, and Wanly, three performing elephants at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, whose turn it is to die, and of their keepers, who weep and pray that World War II will end so their beloved elephants might be saved.
What I Think: I picked up this book as soon as I read that  Jillian Heise thought that it'd be a good companion to Endangered. I'd recently decided that for my 8th grade 4th nine weeks class read aloud, we'd read Endangered and I trusted that Jillian knew what she was talking about. The subtitle warned me thatthis picture book would definitely not be a cheery one, but I could not have prepared myself for how emotional the book actually was. The lyrical writing and soft, watercolor illustrations add to the intensity of the story. Be warned: tears will happen.
     This book not only would be a perfect companion to Endangered, it is definitely a wonderful picture book to lead to deep discussions in the classroom. Children are always very emotional about books pertaining to animals, so I know they will have an intense opinion about what happens in this book. As the zookeepers kill the animals to protect the city in case of a bombing, students will definitely disagree with this decision and this will lead to a great debate. The story also lends itself towards discussions about animal emotions and abuse as well as cause and effect discussions. 
Read Together: Grades 5 and up
Read Alone: Grades 5 to 8
Read With: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer
Snatch of Text: "Not far from the cheerful square, there stands a tombstone. Not many notice this monument for the animals that have died at the Ueno Zoo. It is quiet and peaceful here, and the sun warms every corner." (p. 8)
Mentor Text for: Making Connections, Emotional Impact, Background Knowledge
Writing Prompts: In what ways is the story of the elephants in Faithful Elephants similar to the story of the bonobos in Eliot Schrefer's Endangered?; Was there an alternate solution that the zookeepers could have considered for the elephants? 
Topics Covered: War, Animals, Death, Memorial
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