By Kim Tomsic, illustrated by Hadley Hooper. Chronicle Books, 2021. 68 pages. $18.99/hardcover; $11.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 3–5.
The heroes of this true story, Lawrence Anthony and Françoise Malby-Anthony, are introduced as a couple who can tolerate snakes, spiders, marauding monkeys, and more at Thula Thula, their farm and wildlife preserve on 11,000 acres of varied African land. When they learn of a herd of elephants who behave dangerously as they themselves are harassed and endangered, they prepare an enclosure where the group can settle down and eventually be comfortable enough to branch out and live in an acacia grove in the preserve. It’s a slow but effective process. Lawrence stays with them, just outside the fence, day and night. He comforts them with singing and conversation.
What others have called “naughty,” Lawrence sees as “nervous.” The elephants, he believes, became dangerous because they were sad and scared. Getting to trust Lawrence makes the difference in their feelings and their behavior. Their chosen grove is a 12-hour walk from the house, but they return to visit. Somehow they learn of Lawrence’s death in 2012, and they surround the house for three days. Over three years, they return on the anniversary of his passing.
Hadley Hooper’s illustrations perfectly express the moods not only of the couple, but of the elephants. Not at all cartoonish, they still manage to convey emotions that reflect the story, and they do that largely through engaging postures. A final author’s note includes photographs and the website address for Thula Thula.
This book would work very well in Quaker homes and First-day schools. The couple models concern for the natural world and shows courage, patience, and resourcefulness to resolve conflict and live in peace.
Ann Birch is clerk of El Paso (Tex.) Meeting.