In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”


My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

AN ELEPHANT IN THE GARDEN by Michael Morpurgo


copyright date: June 2011
primarily marketed for: intermediate readers (5th grade and up)

Three things I cannot get enough of are:
1.     books that take place during WWII (there is so much to know about this important time in our history that these stories never get old)
2.     books told from multiple viewpoints (I love the layers of story this reveals)
AND
3.     books about elephants (I am in love with these emotional creatures)

An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo (author of War Horse) satisfies my craving for all three kinds of books. 

The story is initially told from the point of view of a nurse whose son comes with her to work at an assisted living facility.  Her son, Karl, bounds into the room of one of her most challenging patients.  Upon meeting Karl, the patient begins talking about an elephant that lived in her garden when she was a young girl.  The nurse dismisses her talk as the nonsensical words of fading mind.  However, Karl takes her words to heart.

Later that evening, he convinces his mother that perhaps there is truth in the patient’s words, and she begins to doubt her own skepticism.  So, the next day, when her son once again bounds into the room and the patient begins her story, the nurse and Karl both hang on her every word. 

And so did I.  And so will you, reader! 

Although her story is largely a fictional story that Morpurgo created, in the author’s note he explains the many truths on which it is based. 

During World War II, zoo animals were ordered to be destroyed in the case that bombing began to prevent the destruction that wild animals on the loose might cause when their cages were destroyed by bombs.  In a case like this (although in other setting completely), there is a story of a baby elephant that was taken home and cared for by a zookeeper.  Morpurgo put these ideas together with the story of another woman’s journey from Dresden during WWII and spun the story of An Elephant in the Garden

Although the animal plays an important role in the story, I think this is really a story about war and the effect it has on humans and human relationships.  It is beautifully told.  Although it is written for younger readers, there is a lot of depth to be found amongst the lines of this story. 

If you enjoy war stories, you are interested in reading about World War II, you like books with elephants, you appreciate books written from multiple perspectives, or you are human, you are sure to love this book!

Reading Threads:

3 comments:

  1. I've read this, Christy, & loved it. I've seen that others thought it was a little unrealistic, but still I liked the story it told. Thanks for bringing it back up again!

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  2. This looks wonderful! I'll have to pick up a copy. : )

    Speaking of WWII, did you find my "drop" on your front porch?

    j

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  3. @Jess: Yes, thank you VERITY much :)

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