The Elephant Thief is a story full of action, adventure, mystery, twists and turns. While set in 1872, it follows a young boy who gains an identity of self as he travels to win a bet to get an elephant to a menagerie over 200 miles away in one week. There are obstacles to overcome, dangers to thwart, and choices to make, all ending in a high stakes ending.
While Jane Kerr is an established author in the journalism world, this is her debut novel in the middle grade category. Her characters are well-defined with pasts and futures that influence their actions. While based on true events, it is a historical fiction piece that she has taken some liberties with, as indicated in the author’s note.
This book is great for readers who enjoy animals, underdogs, history, and journey stories, but do not mind some violence. In the end, this is a story about the relationship of a young boy, the animal he loves, and the changes that take place because of that love.
Review of an Advance Reader Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Chicken House
Violence/Gore: Abduction of minor; arm twisted behind back; minor pushed; rumor razor is sewn into man’s peak of hair to blind another with a head jab; threat of knife; report of death; adult cuts minors arm with knife – scarring of similar injuries; minor kicked, punched, and scratched; minor thrown in the air; threat of broken bones; kicked ankle; imagined flogging; arms pulled tightly behind back; threat of fist; thoughts of being in hands of a murderer and mad accomplice; minor pushed off balance; switchblade or cudgel; dream of being chased by an adult with a knife; as though being buried underground; threat of whip to animal; minor jumps on adult taking him to ground; thoughts of knife and fists of gang member; scars all over body; threat of slit throats and be robbed; threats of violence including planks and fists; brief scuffle with a punch; broken plank to throat; hit with umbrella; elephant holding up a man in trunk; kick elephant to stop; elephant destroys toll booth gate; elephant destroys train car; elephant destroys market; ready to draw blood; near drowning; river with jaws and teeth could swallow them whole; minor bit minor’s hand; animals are shot for taxidermy; fire in stable threatening lives – extended incident; elephant throws man causing concussion and 2 broken bones; adult threatens minor and animal with gun – extended incident; shoots at ground; building where murderers and thieves were taken for hanging; verbal threat about killing animal; reference to animal being capable of killing; animal had been cut; stitched wound bleeding; 2 men floating in river had been murdered; reference to another man being murdered; pushing and shoving; fight in press box; people and animal could have died; threw object; would have thrown person; report of cut; threat of regret of not killing animal; initials carved into minor’s flesh; knife stabbed into wrist; punched jaw; adult pushed minor; animal pushes adult; blood on bandage; hand clips against cheek slicing it open; arms held behind back; hands on neck; kidnapped minor; dagger threat; blood on handkerchief; unintentionally kicked by crowd; attempted stabbing; threat of sword; implied death of parent; adult shook minor; adult’s hand around minor’s neck; 18 page extended incident involving a fight between an adult and a minor including: head to ribs, fist to head, knife threat, knock over, grabbed ankle, dash out with knife, foot smashed hand, kicked in knee, missed punch, punch hit, hit chest, hit hip, punched back, hit eye, cuts, bruises, ribs potentially broken, punch to chest, knee to ribs, kick ribs, knife to throat, grabbed neck – strangling, fell to ground, thought of murder, blood down forehead, split lip, swollen eye, felt like hammering head, felt like hot irons to chest. Adult hits adult over the head unconscious; minor lifts and drops head 2 times on stone.
Sex/Nudity: Husband puts hand around waist of wife and kisses her on the cheek; minor strips down for a bath; minor kisses minor on cheek; minors hug a few times; minors hold hands a few times.
Mature Subject Matter:
Gangs, poverty, threats, poaching described, orphaned child, theft and cons.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Several references to an adult smoking a cigar; adults drinking beer and are drunk; vicar passes out from drinking sherry; broken barrel of beer; adult told not to touch ale; beer on breath of adult; adult sipping ale.