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c.2022, Little, Brown Young Readers
272 pages

Her feet were the size of hubcaps; her ears, as big as your favorite blanket.

The most impressive part about the first elephant you ever met, though, was her trunk. Like a fire hose at one end, a finger at the other, she could do anything with that amazing trunk. As in the new book “The Elephant Girl” by James Patterson and Ellen Banda-Aaku, it could even save a young girl’s life.

If there was one thing Jama didn’t understand, it was boys.

All the other girls in her Masaai tribe giggled and gossiped about the boys who’d recently gone through their manhood ceremony, but Jama didn’t see what the big deal was. Her friends always talked about marriage, too, but Jama didn’t want to be married yet, either. She was just 12 years old. She wanted to get an education, to travel, to see the world.

She talked about it with her mother, who told Jama that wanting those things was OK. After Baba died, she and Momma were close as could be but sometimes Jama needed space for her thoughts. That was when she snuck off to a nearby a watering hole.

The hidden spot she’d found there was a good place to be quiet but one afternoon, her secret changed into something special: While she was tucked away in the brush, a herd of elephants came to drink and one of them gave birth to a calf, almost right in front of her!

The elephants never seemed to be afraid of Jama and, over time, she grew to love and respect them. She gave them names, and she played with the baby elephant. Mbegu was a little clown, and she made Jama laugh.

But the elephants were not safe. There were poachers about and when Jama spotted one from her hiding place one day, she didn’t know who to tell. The village had a resident ranger but for some reason, she was scared of him.

Surely, he wouldn’t hurt her. But he could hurt her elephants …

Author James Patterson. If you’re an adult and you see that name, please stop and take a breath, then notice that Ellen Banda-Aaku’s name is next door. And then hand this book to the child with you, because “The Elephant Girl” is not for you.

Nope, this is a kids’ book, through and through, with kiddish action bravery, and skullduggery. Seriously, what child wouldn’t love becoming secret BFFs with a wild elephant herd? Who doesn’t want to be a hero to a baby elephant? Indeed, this such a typical kids’ book that an orphan is a plot driver.

But is it any good?

Well, yes. Children who love animals, adventure, and a little bit of safe danger will devour it. It includes some sadness befitting the tale, (not to be a spoiler) a happy ending, and it’s not for you. Nope, “The Elephant Girl” is perfect for a quiet kid who longs to be uniquely special, and for 10-to-14-year-old readers who want a big story.

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