Book Review: What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein
This is an amazing middle grade book that will take you into the lush landscapes of the jungles in Nepal. The main character, Nandu, is elevan years old and lives with his adopted father, Subba Sahib, who is the caretaker of the king’s elephant stable. Nandu is an orphan who was discovered in the jungle by an elephant in Subba Sahib’s stable, Devi Kali. Nandu and Devi Kali develop a mother-child bond that is very unique and special. We follow the adventures of Nandu as he navigates various challenges in his life. I experienced various emotions as Nandu is subjected to caste based prejudice. I loved and appreciated the simplicity of Nandu’s life. I just wanted to hug him and tell him that I really admire him. There are a few wise characters like Subba Sahib, Father Autry and the Sadhu (who was once a rich businessman but now lives a simple life in a Jungle) and I appreciated all the wisdom that they imparted. There are also a few evil characters like the bandits who loot villages and often burn them down (the Maroons) or the Forrest officer whom Nandu calls Watermelon Belly or the various elephant owners who mistreat their elephants. .
The story slows down and becomes episodic in places but despite this minor flaw, this was overall a heart warming story to read. I feel that this book should be read to fifth and sixth graders in their classrooms to not only instill in them a compassion for animals and a love for nature but also to open up their minds to a different world, a different culture and a different lifestyle. I am looking forward to reading the sequel to this one soon. I was reading three other adult books along with this one but this one was the best of all. I found myself gravitating towards it more than the others 💕
P.S: The rocks in these pictures were painted by me and my ten year old daughter together. Rock painting and buddy reading middle grade books are a couple of ways in which I try to connect with my daughter.