Apr 23, 2017

Earth Day Activists: Tony and his Elephants- a WAKA Picture Book

Crick hollow Books, 2017

TONY AND HIS ELEPHANTS is the third in a series of photo-documentary releases from journalist/author Cathleen Burnham. Her award-winning series features young people taking actions to rescue and protect endangered wild animals.

In this latest recent release, Tony's story unfolds in Thailand near the Mekong River. In this case young Tony's family actively rescues and protects elephants from inappropriate captivity, raising them and training them in a natural, protected jungle settling, free of chains. Humane techniques and sharing intimate daily life with the elephants (including sleeping quarters!)  lead to genuine partnerships and mutual respect.
Eight-year-old Tony is assigned the responsibility for two young elephants, launching him on his first steps to becoming a mahout, as his father and grandfather before him. He has been given two recently rescued elephants young Nam Cho and Baby Pumpuii, who still requires milk and is bottle-fed. The book details his responsibilities; include training, and reveals the habits, needs, temperament, and threats in lives of elephants. When fire presents an immediate danger to Tony’s and the other elephants, he must take charge while his parents are away fighting the fires. He handles the challenge bravely and successfully.

The astonishing aspect of these books is that photographer-author Burnham has communicated her personal encounters and interactions with the young people and their animals so effectively and compellingly.

This book would pair well with 2013 Newbery-Winner, The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate. In it, a baby elephant arrives in a "strip mall zoo" in the United States, and the inner lives of the animals are explored through fiction. In Tony's story readers will find outlets for their deep empathy and concern, recognizing ways that young people and their families are working to prevent such abuse.

Beyond the excitement of  Tony’s story, there’s the appeal of colorful photography, world travels, empowered young people, and authentic adventures. Burnham’s deft use of photo captions, labeled maps with keys, relevant cultural practices, and back matter make this and the other series books ideal content for STEM resources. Readers are invited to explore the author's nonprofit organization,
 www.WAKABooks.org,where they can discover ways of working together for the animals of the Earth, green living, and suggestions for stewardship of the land that can be carried out in their own communities.

1 comment:

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.