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Publisher's Note:

In 1941, bombs drop from the night skies of London, demolishing the apartment Nick Freestone lives in with his mother. Deciding the situation in England is too unstable, Nick's mother sends him to live with his father in Burma, hoping he will be safer living on the family's teak plantation. But as soon as Nick arrives, trouble erupts in the remote Burmese elephant village. Japanese soldiers invade, and Nick's father is taken prisoner. Nick is left stranded on the plantation, forced to work as a servant to the new rulers. As life in the village grows more dangerous for Nick and his young friend, Mya, they plan their daring escape. Setting off on elephant back, they will risk their lives to save Nick's father and Mya's brother from a Japanese POW camp.…

Elephant Run

by Roland Smith

Overall Book Review:

Fourteen-year-old Nick returns to his father’s teak plantation in Burma just before the Japanese begin bombing Rangoon in 1944. Soon the Japanese seize the plantation, taking Nick’s father to a forced labor camp and putting Nick to work in the garden at the plantation.

The head houseman welcomes the Japanese as liberators and delights in beating Nick with his cane. But a Japanese soldier befriends him, teaching him Japanese, helping him understand how he must behave, and ultimately risking his life to help Nick and his father.

The daughter of the head mahout, or elephant driver escapes with Nick. There are hints of Nick’s interest in her, and at the end of the war, they’re together in Australia on Nick’s father’s ranch there.

The elephants don’t figure as prominently in the story as I expected from the title, but readers who are interested in elephants will enjoy reading about how elephants are trained, about the mahouts or elephant drivers, about riding elephants, and about some elephant attacks.

The story begins during the blitz in London, quiets down when Nick arrives in Burma, and then alternates intervals of excitement with slower stretches. The climax is an exciting scene where Nick, his father, and others are caught by the Japanese but saved by a charging elephant.

Reading Level: 6.5, range 4.5-7.7. 

Of interest to boys and girls.

This review has been acquired and adapted from

Content Analysis:

 This review was acquired from on May 15, 2014 and was not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist.  Nevertheless, it contains useful content information which is included here.  The overall number ratings have been approximated based on this information.

G*d; d*mn; bloody, *ss—meaning jack*ss

Description of nightly bombings of London, not graphic; mention a number of times of Rangoon being bombed; paragraph on ways elephants kill, somewhat graphic; elephant attacks hero, knocks wind out of him, breaks ribs; mention of tiger killing woman and child; soldier hits heroine’s brother in stomach with rifle butt, heroine jumps on soldier’s back, he throws her off, kicks her; hero fired at, told to return or he’ll be shot; hero told to keep head down and bow or he’ll be hit, whacked; report that Japanese officer beheads people with sword; dead dog with head crushed; butchered pig; houses ransacked, others burned; corpse was beaten to death, another beheaded; brother beaten; hero slapped on head, not hard, twice; mention of Japanese “maiming and torturing prisoners”; prisoners warned that their families will be severely punished if prisoners try to escape; servant beats hero with cane, repeatedly for not doing his work fast or well enough or for speaking to anyone; head servant beats other servants, mentioned several times; elephant attacked by tiger; elephant attacked mahout, “crushed his leg”; officer pulls out sword to kill hero, but servant beats him with cane instead; hero sees officer behead soldier for killing a Burmese, officer wipes blood on soldier’s tunic, daughter and aunt watch, daughter feels “horror and regret”; hero thinks of punishment he’ll receive if he’s caught reading a note—holding a boulder over his head, being beaten; servant beats bedding, thinking he’s beating hero; officer beats servant with his cane; hero told that officer may execute him for running away, or servant may beat him to death; prisoners can be killed for stealing, trying to escape, and for assaulting someone; some Burmese plan to blow up airfield, they do blow it up, some soldiers die, not graphic; officers brag about hunting and killing tigers; description of tiger attacking elephant, elephant attacking his mahout, hero warned elephant may try to kill him; soldier threatens to hit monk; soldiers burn a house down; if prisoner escapes, guard is also executed; one officer has killed seventeen tigers, plans to kill a hundred before war over; servant hits heroine with cane for spitting at him; officer hits father in face with baton, then hits brother, says they’ll be executed; officer pulls out sword; hero hit with butt of rifle; elephant overturns jeep, runs man through with tusk, somewhat graphic; elephant shot at; trackers ready to shoot hero; trackers shot, somewhat graphic; soldier who helped father escape will be executed if Japanese find out father is alive; vultures eat rotting monkey carcass, eyes pecked out, monkey shot by Japanese to keep hill tribes from eating it, forcing them to join Japanese; hero hides during attack on others—wonders if he’s a coward; hero throws up when he sees friends’ corpses.

Mention of someone expecting a baby, born three weeks after someone else; mention that mahout’s daughter is very pretty and should be far away from soldiers; head servant tries to get into heroine’s bedroom; hero imagines manhunt in the night with servants half-dressed; heroine’s brother fears Japanese will “accost” her, she fears advances of head servant who wants to marry her; heroine wakes up hero—he doesn’t have any clothes on, not graphic, not sexual; when soldiers called out in the night, some show up in underwear, not graphic; hero and heroine kiss, not graphic.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death, War, Cruelty

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Adults smoke cigarettes, cheroots, accepted; someone’s teeth stained from chewing betel nuts, described as “a mild narcotic.”

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

On May 15, 2014 Compass Book Ratings acquired Many reviews were acquired from and these reviews were not completed using Compass Book Ratings’ standardized checklist. Nevertheless, the reviews contain useful content information which is included.