When a traveling circus goes under and is set to sell all of its possessions, including a large Asian elephant, a local gang leader sends in a young, mute street urchin under his power to scope out the hoard in search of clues to a rumored treasure that the past owner has hidden. For the boy, later named Danny, a chaotic turn of events leads him to the zoo keeper Mr. Jamison. Danny helps Jamison buy Maharajah the majestic elephant and discovers he has a bond with the animal. From there the story careens forward, Danny and Maharajah at the center of mystery, adventure and a race from Scotland toward England, all under the pressure of Mr. Jamison’s quest for publicity, a rival zoo keeper’s ploys to slow the journey down and Danny’s past. It is a topsy-turvy journey and will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
The Elephant Thief by Jane Kerr is a wonderfully written historical fiction based on the very real Asian elephant, Maharajah, and its 200 mile walk to the Belle Vue Zoo after he refused to board a train. While the original trek seems to have been rather devoid of the adventure that Kerr brings to her story, it is still a fun fact of history and, if you are ever in Manchester, England you can see the skeleton of this great elephant, preserved since it’s death at the age of eighteen in 1890.
As to the story itself, Kerr does a masterful job of adding adventure, mystery and great character development to the uneventful walk. The adventure is fast paced and exciting and throughout the journey the mystery of where the hidden treasure lies continues to surface. The character of Danny is wonderfully developed and the other characters are realistic and fun. All in all The Elephant Thief is a race through the English countryside even as it is a race against time and bad characters with nefarious intent. Our family each found ourselves racing through the story as it was hard to put down. We enjoyed it immensely and we think you will too.
- Ages: 8 – 99
- Awards: None
- Pages: 325
- Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
By Aaron G Myers
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