Thursday, April 5, 2012

E for Elephant in the Garden, by Michael Morpurgo (fiction) - survival, love & an elephant inWorld War II

War means casualties and refugees.
Family ties are forged in trying times.
Marlene is a refugee, a member of the family, an elephant.

The new nursing home patient is ranting about her missing photo book, but the staff has never seen it. Is old Lizzie just imagining things? Luckily, nine-year-old Karl doesn't care what the grownups say and visits her room to learn that her little brother was named Karl, too! And the stories that she tells about Karl's magic tricks and her mother being a zookeeper are so real. Was the grieving young elephant who came to live with her family real, too?

This book tells parallel stories, with the present Lizzie's tale in one typeface and young Elizabeth's in another. Morpurgo says this book was inspired by the news story of the Belfast zookeeper who kept a young elephant at her home during threats of WWII bombings of the Irish city, as well as the heroic efforts of refugees helping and protecting children in many situations.

Find this unique book soon at your local library or independent bookstore so you can meet Elizabeth, Marlene, and their family on the cold and difficult journey toward safety.
(p.s. Giveaway for ARC of Cat Girl's Day Off continues here through 11:59 p.m. Monday, April 9, 2012.)

Book info: An Elephant in the Garden / Michael Morpurgo. Fiewel and Friends, 2011. [author's website] [publisher site] [book trailer]

My Recommendation: Bombs falling through the winter night, thousands of people – and one elephant – flee Dresden as it burns. As the old lady talks in the nursing home, Karl and his mother at first wonder how much of the story is true, then marvel that anyone survived it.

Elizabeth grew up in Dresden, with her younger brother Karli who loved doing magic tricks, their mother who loved peace, and their father who loved his family more than anything. But the war changed everything, taking away their father, making their mother work to feed the family. Mutti became a zookeeper, caring for the animals, telling Elizabeth and Karli about their antics and the sadness of Marlene, the young elephant whose mother had suddenly died.

When it becomes clear that Germany is losing the war, the zoo director reluctantly decides that the animals must be destroyed so they can’t run wild through Dresden when bomb attacks open their cages. How could Mutti let Marlene be killed? She brought the elephant home to their garden where Karli fed her and comforted her, inside its tall brick walls.

But soon the Allied bombers came, and the city became an inferno. Mutti led them away from the flames, through the snow, toward her brother’s farm in the country. A noise in the barn where Marlene sleeps alerts the family to an intruder – an enemy soldier!

Can they trust this young Canadian man? How can they feed Marlene in the winter forest? How will they get to safety with Allied troops approaching and German forces retreating? (and is Ms. Lizzie’s story really true?)

As gently as the young elephant finds her way across the snowy hills with her adoptive family, this story of survival and love quietly flows from Lizzie’s memories into the lives of Karl and his mother in the present. Based on true history of the Belfast Zoo’s elephant during World War II. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.


  1. Hi! I love this cover, and the story sounds intriguing.

  2. Wow! this sounds like a book that I'd love to read! And, it's a painless way to introduce young people to a bit of history.

  3. Found you via A-Z. I'm also a librarian and I love YA, particularly YA romance. I'm also a huge fan of dystopian. Will enjoy following you and reading your reviews.

  4. This sounds like a book I'd love to read, since I also write historical novels about young people during this era. I also love animal stories.

  5. I really love elephants... and the image on the cover of that book had my attention even before I read the post. It sounds like a wonderful read, the kind that could be enjoyed in a quiet space under a tree in the backyard. I am looking forward to it.

    I'm glad you stopped by my blog, because this is a great find for me to enjoy... consider yourself followed :-)

  6. Sounds like a pretty amazing book!

  7. Sounds like a great book! Thanks. I just read Water for Elephants.

  8. I may download this one onto my kidle.


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