Thursday, July 2, 2009
Copy from school library
After the London apartment in which Nick Freestone lives with his mother and stepfather is bombed during World War II, Nick is sent to live with his father in Burma. Unfortunately, by the time he arrives at his father’s teak plantation, it is obvious that the Japanese are going to take over the country. Nick’s father is determined to get Nick out of the country and to safety in Australia, but before that can happen, the Japanese arrive and take everyone captive. Nick’s father is sent to a work camp, along with the most trusted of his mahouts (men who train and work with the elephants on the plantation). Nick is left to be a servant to the Japanese occupiers. He is determined to escape and to rescue his father. A Burmese girl, Mya, is left an orphan when her father is murdered by the Japanese and she also wants to escape and rescue her brother, one of the mahouts now forced to work on a railroad being built by the Japanese. Nick and Mya do have some help – Mya’s great-grandfather who just might be able to make the attempt a success.
Like all of Roland Smith’s books, Elephant Run is action-packed. I do have a few quibbles about it, but I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The quibbles: First, Smith focuses on the points of view of two characters, Nick and Mya, but there were times that I had trouble moving from one point of view to the other. My second quibble deals with the way Smith teaches the reader about the region and the time period. It is obvious that most of his readers will come to this book with little knowledge of Burma, the Japanese invasion of the country, and of elephant training so Smith has a lot of information to get across. It does feel like in certain places it’s almost as if he’s saying, “OK, here’s a little lesson for you about . . .” and after a paragraph or so then proceeds with the narrative.
Despite these quibbles, I was really drawn to the book. The almost non-stop action helped, as did my interest World War II. I also really liked the characters and cheered for them as they faced such terrible odds in their attempt to escape and free their family members. I loved the sections with the elephants and enjoyed learning about them. I think this will be a great book for my middle school boys – especially those in 7th grade who study Asia.