Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tua and the Elephant

by R.P. Harris
Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo
Chronicle Books
April 18, 2012 | $16.99

This sweet book takes place in Chang Mai, Thailand. Since I lived in Thailand for 2 years, I was interested in how it would be portrayed. Since reading this book, I've already ordered two more copies to give as gifts. Meant for middle-grade readers (age 8-12), it also makes a fantastic read aloud for any child, and I think the reader will enjoy it as much as the listener will.

Chronicle Books is known for producing beautiful books and this is no exception. Physically, it's gorgeous. It's a small trim-size with bright orange, Thai-silk print inspired end papers and a purple binding with the same little purple elephant which also begins each chapter. There are three-color (white, purple and a rich yellow) full-page plates throughout the book, and the type, set on heavy bright-white paper is also a shade of purple. Some of the fun of reading the book is holding it in your hand; it's that well-made and beautiful. The artwork by Yoo, done in charcoal and linoleum block print are fanciful and fun while also bringing some of the action of the book to life.

The story is about Tua (which means peanut in Thai), a little girl who lives with her hardworking mother in the north of Thailand, in Chang Mai. She's known throughout her neighborhood, and one night while at the night market, she liberates an abused baby elephant from two mahouts (elephant trainers). She helps the elephant after she sees the abuse and the elephant "turned toward Tua and once again held her gaze. 'Did you see that?' it seemed to say." An adventure ensues, involving bringing the chang (elephant), now named Pohn-Pohn, into a house, across a river, and to a wat (temple) to seek protection. All the while, the two mahouts are in pursuit, trying to get the elephant back because of "what an elephant is worth." In the end, everyone is safe, thanks to Tua, a local boy called Kanchanok, an elephant sanctuary run by Mae Noi, and a farang (tourist). Pohn-Pohn is a treat, and children and parents or others can say khawp khun kha (hello) to her together.

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