Monday, May 17, 2021

Middle Grade Zoo Adventure a Fun Mash-Up of Genres

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tornadoes are known for causing havoc and destruction, but for 12-year-old Lexington Willow, a tornado was the thing that brought her home.  Seven years ago, the biggest storm in Nebraska's history blew her into the zoo.  She was found near an elephant enclosure, watched over by Nyah, a 20-year-old African elephant.  No one has ever come forward to claim Lex, so she has remained at the zoo in the care of Roger, her foster father.  She feels so safe and sheltered by the place's familiar boundaries that she rarely leaves.  Her days are spent doing homeschool lessons; hanging out with her best friend, Fisher Leigh, who also lives on the grounds; and voicing train tours of the zoo.  Now that she and Fisher are finally old enough to help with the care of her beloved elephants, Lex couldn't be happier.

Lex has always felt a special connection with Nyah, but when the pachyderm sends her a telepathic message, Lex is puzzled.  The elephant seems to be telling her to go outside the zoo, into the woods beyond, to find the answers to the many questions Lex has about her past.  Is she crazy to listen to the advice of an animal?  As nervous as she is to leave the safety of her precious zoo, Lex feels compelled to follow Nyah's instructions.  When Lex makes an otherworldly discovery out there, she embarks on a magical adventure involving a ghost, a treasure hunt, and a mystery, all of which promise to lead her back to her own inexplicable beginning. 

Magical realism is common in middle-grade books, but to find it combined with a mystery, a ghost story, and a tale of lost treasure?  That's something special.  The Elephant's Girl, a debut novel by Celesta Rimington, offers this enticing genre mash-up along with a unique setting, two likable heroines (one human, one pachyderm), and an exciting plot.  Not only does the book educate readers about elephants, but it also teaches important lessons about humans' responsibility toward animals, kindness, the true meaning of family, standing up for one's self, and finding courage to do hard things.  The story is predictable and I didn't always find the magical realism bits convincing, but overall, I found The Elephant's Girl to be a delightful, entertaining book.  Young animal lovers looking for a fun, magical reading adventure won't be disappointed.


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Elephant's Girl from the generous folks at Penguin Random House as part of an awards program I'm helping to judge.  Thank you!

4 comments:

  1. This was a fun read. :)

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  2. Excellent review Susan, this sounds like a great middle grade story.

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  3. This sounds like a really fun book for middle grade students!

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  4. This sounds like a rally magical book!

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