Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Plot Summary:
In this true tale, Lizzie revisits her past with an amazing tale of love and hope. On February 13, everything changed for her and her family. On February 13, four days after her sixteenth birthday, her hometown of Dresden, Germany, is leveled to the ground by Allie firepower. Not only is homeless, the life she knew was all over every since the war started. With her father gone, her mother had to take over his duties by getting a job at the local zoo. What Lizzie didn't anticipate is her mother's attachment to an orphaned elephant named Marlene. Although Lizzie sees this bond as silly, she is having a hard coping with the fact that her father is gone, her mother works too much, and an elephant has taken her place in her mother's eye. Thankfully, all of that changes when her mother brings Marlene home. Usually, one does not keep an elephant for a pet, but, in this case, extra exception have been made. With the impending invasion of Dresden, the zoo keeper was given a direct order to destroy most of the big of animals; if the zoo is bombed, all of the wild animals will escape and hurt others. Since Marlene has been raised by Lizzie's mother, with a lot of convincing, the director of the zoo gives her permission to care for Marlene. When Lizzie sees Marlene in her garden, she has no idea what's going on. Although Lizzie has been jealous of Marlene, all of that melts away the moment Lizzie looked in Marlene's big brown eye and it was love at first sight. In many ways, Marlene has the ability to see inside the hearts of those she meets, which is not only comforting, but allows the person to see inside hers. With the busyness of life, Lizzie admits she actually forgot about the war some days, but it wasn't for that horrible night when Dresden was finally bombed. With her family, and Marlene, in tow, they must find shelter or face an uncertain future in the German wilderness.

Critical Evaluation:
Michael Morpurgo is a master of storytelling. By incorporating three true stories, Morpurgo has created a story where one family and one elephant come together to survive the horror of war. Just like War Horse, the bonds between humans and animals takes center stage and its the relationships that inspire us to hop, to dream, and to love. I absolutely love elephants and I am so overjoyed to know that one little elephant was saved because her human companions loved her so much they did everything they could to keep her alive. Although we, humans, have this horrible ability to destroy everything we love based on ideology, it's the power of the human spirit that can make all the wrong right. For Marlene, she knew she was being protected from the forces that could destroy her. However, in efforts to show her gratitude, her affection for her family was more than the could ever expect. I think what makes elephants extraordinary is their empathy. Marlene could feel the hurt in Lizzie when it came to her father simply because she lost her own mother. The beauty of this magnificent creature is not just their way of expressing emotion but their temperament. Most elephants, unless provoked, are very social, calm, expressive, and collected; they tend to their young and they go about their days. In many ways, elephants are more trusting and caring than most humans so having Marlene beside their side gave Lizzie, and her family, the will to survive. An Elephant in the Garden is a wonderful story where friendship, love, forgiveness, sacrifice, and hope can make the darkest of days a little brighter.

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
Michael Morpurgo is, in his own words, "oldish, married with three children, and a grandfather six times over." Born in 1943, he attended schools in London, Sussex and Canterbury (one at least of which was horrible enough to inspire him to describe it obliquely in The Butterfly Lion). He went on to London University to study English and French, followed by a step into the teaching profession and a job in a primary school in Kent. It was there that he discovered what he wanted to do. "We had to read the children a story every day and my lot were bored by the book I was reading. I decided I had to do something and told them the kind of story I used to tell my kids - it was like a soap opera, and they focused on it. I could see there was magic in it for them, and realised there was magic in it for me.
In 1976 Michael and his wife, Clare, started the charity Farms For City Children (FFCC), which aims to relieve the poverty of experience of young children from inner city and urban areas by providing them with a week in which they work actively and purposefully on farms in the heart of the countryside. They now have three farms – Nethercott in Devon, Treginnis in Wales and Wick in Gloucestershire. "As a teacher I realised many children had little real contact with the world around them – to them the television was real. I wanted them to experience life at first hand." In the last 30 years over 50,000 children from cities and towns throughout the UK have spent a week of their lives living and working for a week on one of the three farms.
Living in Devon, listening to Mozart, and working with children have provided most of the stimulae Michael needs to discover and write his stories. He spends about half his life mucking out sheds with the children, feeding sheep or milking cows; the other half he spends dreaming up and writing stories. "For me, the greater part of writing is daydreaming, dreaming the dream of my story until it hatches out - the writing down of it I always find hard. But I love finishing it, then holding the book in my hand and sharing my dream with my readers."

Tween Historical

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 6 & up

Books Similar to An Elephant in the Garden:
Awards & Recognition:

Review Quotes:
“Young Lizzie’s story (differentiated from the framing tale by typeface change) is quick-paced and moving, and her teenage viewpoint is believable…”--BCCB
"Morpurgo crafts a thought-provoking and perilous encounter with an enemy combatant who joins their party and eventually forges a believable romance with Lizzie.” --Publishers Weekly Online
"Readers . . . can’t help but be drawn into the tale of survival told in An Elephant in the Garden, which is loosely based on a real event from World War II." --BookPage“… the calm, steady tone is engaging, appropriate, and will appeal to a wide range of readers.” --VOYA
“The occasional interruptions to the story build suspense and add a layer of resonance to Morpurgo’s poignant and thoughtful exploration of the terrible impact of war on both sides of the fighting.” --Booklist
“This well-paced, heartwarming narrative by a master storyteller will appeal to readers on several levels…” --School Library Journal

To learn more about Sheila's (aka. Marlene) story:

{ 4 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Hola y gгacias!

    Debo pronunciar que tu entrada en el page me ha sido ϲertamente ventajoso!

    Registrador de temperatura

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I liked reading the book An Elephant in the Garden which is very interesting and my favourite part starts when Peter and Lizzie go to see the Circus show and they get back Marlene..


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Deborah Takahashi
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My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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