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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Summary: Tua (10) and her mom live in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Tua is a small girl with a big curiosity. One of her favorite things is to visit the night market. On this visit, Tua spotted a scruffy brown dog with a muzzle. Curious about the dog's muzzle, she followed it. That led to the discovery of a hole in the wall. Going through that hole, Tua found herself in a strange place. It is here that she encounters an elephant. After watching the mahouts mistreat the animal, Tua decides that she will free the elephant (whom she names Pohn-Pohn) of its shackles and find it a safe, happy home. Thus begins their journey to escape the cruelty of the poachers to reach the Buddhist elephant refuge and, along the way, discover a very special friendship! This lightly illustrated book offers a story of adventure, friendship, and personal discovery.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, family reading, anytime reading, independent reading, read aloud book
Recommended Age: read together: 9 to 13; read yourself: 11 and Up
Interest Level: 10 and Up
Reading Level: 5.2
Young Reader Reaction: Review pending.
Adult Reader Reaction: What a lovely, refreshing story. The books size makes it feel as if you are holding Tua and Pohn-Pohn's hearts in your hands. The writing is superb, giving readers the feel of being in bustling Chiang Mai. The illustrations (though sparse) are wonderful and their coloring truly complements the story. I especially appreciate the depth with which the author shared cultural traditions and the Thai language.
Pros: Look no further than Tua and the Elephant if you want a bedtime adventure with heart. Readers are treated to a story with timeless appeal and the opportunity to learn about other cultural traditions, as well.
Cons: None! The author does an exceptional job getting across the idea of poachers and how the mahouts used Pohn-Pohn as tourist bait, it is neither over-played nor explicitly violent.
Borrow or Buy: Buy. This is a lovely story to share as a read-aloud. This is a book I will add to my "go-to" list of book gifts for teens.
Educational Themes: This is, at its heart, a story of family and friendship. Even so, there are other themes, namely learning about Thai culture (including the language) and the plight of the Asian elephant.
Notes: The publisher donated a copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. This book will be given to a nonprofit to help readers in need.
Literary Categories: Fiction - adventure, friendship, cultures and traditions, geography,
Date(s) Reviewed: December 2015
Other Reviews: See Critics' Reviews and reader feedback at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.