by Lynne Kelly
Unfortunately, while I liked this book at the start, I began to loose interest about halfway through. I'm just not the right target audience anymore (feel like I've said this before) and it takes a certain kind of writing style to keep my attention in a book aimed at younger readers. It's a good story, but a lot of it just felt flat to me. Even though the characters weren't quite all black-and-white. The trainer, while overworking the elephant and using cruel practices to teach her tricks, showed that he had a measure of kindness in his heart as well. The elderly man who worked as cook in the camp, proved himself to be a wealth of knowledge about elephants and was a mentor to Hastin. But he has a dark past as well. The owner, appearing kind and enthusiastic when he first met Hastin, soon proves himself to be a strict taskmaster, never paying Hastin and always adding more time onto his service until it seems the boy will never be free of what has become intolerable work conditions.
I finished the book, wanting to know what happened, but even though events escalated I didn't care enough about the characters anymore, and found myself skimming the last few chapters. I do think kids interested in elephants or India would like this book, and I appreciated how it taught quite a bit about different areas of the country, cultural practices and religious beliefs throughout the story. There's also a lot of description about elephants, mostly in the form of things Hastin observes or learns from the old man. And of course, there is the pervasive theme of captivity- both the now-illegal practices of catching wild elephants and training them to perform, and child labor.
Rating: 2/5 248 pages, 2012
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