Elephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity Reviews

Booklist

ElephantJourney_Internet“Toka, Iringa, and Thika, three female elephants at the Toronto Zoo, showed signs of illness, people became concerned about their living in a cold climate with so little room to roam. In a clearly written narrative, Laidlaw explains how the three elephants were moved from the zoo to an animal sanctuary in California. Led into crates that were loaded onto a flatbed trailer, the elephants made the long journey west, where they were greeted by other elephants and released onto an 80-acre preserve of grasslands with hills, trees, and streams. Based on photos of the elephants’ journey, Deines’ oil paintings illustrate the text very effectively. An animal-rights activist and the author of children’s books such as Saving Lives and Changing Hearts: Animal Sanctuaries and Rescue Centers (2013) and Wild Animals in Captivity (2008), Laidlaw mentions his personal involvement in the project in the four-page appended section. Illustrated with color photos, this section comments on elephants in general as well as the facts behind the narrative. An appealing animal-rescue book.”
— Carolyn Phelan

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Publishers Weekly

“Born in southern Africa, elephants Toka and Iringa were later captured and brought to a Toronto zoo; a third elephant, Thika, was born in captivity. When the zoo’s cramped conditions and cold climate began to impair the elephants’ heath, public outcry resulted in their 2013 relocation to a California sanctuary. In subdued oil paintings, Deines focuses on the elephants’ long, difficult journey, riding in crates on flatbed truck trailers through dangerous weather conditions. Seeing Toka, Iringa, and Thika finally free to explore their new home—80 acres of glowing grasslands—will likely bring relief to sensitive readers. Photographs and additional rescue details round out a sensitive account of animal activism and rehabilitation. Ages 6–9.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Three elephants from the Toronto Zoo are moved to a sanctuary in California. Toka and Iringa ‘roamed with their families in the warm, dry climate of southern Africa’ before they were ‘captured and brought to a zoo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.’ Thika, 10 years younger, was born at the zoo. The matter-of-fact, accessible text makes it clear that these monumental creatures were headed toward early deaths due to the combination of harsh weather and the stultifying zoo environment, triggering the transfer. Beautiful oil paintings with the softness of pastels—all double-page spreads on generously sized pages—capture important moments in the story: the different settings of southern Africa, zoo, and wildlife sanctuary; the excitement of protestors who finally convince authorities to transport the elephants to the Performing Animal Welfare Society; the convoy of trucks from Toronto to California; and many intimate moments among elephants. Particularly poignant: Toka has shyly moved from her transport crate to the PAWS elephant barn, where three resident elephants stand behind safety barriers. The elephants trumpet and wave their trunks at the newbie: ‘It was as if the elephants were old friends who had been reunited at last.’ There is quite a bit of repetition in the endnotes but also further details, including a recounting of the two years following the successful 2013 transfer. Art and text create a moving tale. (index) (Informational picture book. 6-10)”

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School Library Journal

“Gr 2-4–The story of three zoo elephants and their journey to a new home. Toka, Thika, and Iringa were not thriving in the barren, small, and often frozen enclosure at the Toronto Zoo. When the zoo decided to send the unhappy pachyderms to another location, animal advocates spoke up and convinced officials to send the elephants to Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a California animal sanctuary. Thus began their three-day trek across the continent. On a stormy October night in 2013, the caravan set off. Along the way, the animals encountered a number of difficulties but ultimately reached the safe haven that was their destination. Laidlaw chronicles the trip, combining key facts with absorbing storytelling. His forthright narrative is complemented by Deines’s luminous oil paintings, which expertly use color and light to track the emotional trajectory of the elephants from discomfort and misery to anxiety and fear and then, finally, to delight and contentment. The image of the newcomers being greeted by the waving trunks of the three elephants already residing at PAWS glows with golden light and reflects the joy of the occasion. A supplementary appendix includes background information and photographs of the actual trip. VERDICT A great addition for lessons on wildlife and the ethics of zoos. Pair with Sandra Markle’s The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins or Toni Buzzeo’s A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss.”
–Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston

CM Magazine

…Elephant Journey is an important book. For those who grew up with the elephants at the zoo, for those who only visited Toko, Thika, and Iringa once or twice, or for those who have never had (and may never have) a chance to experience the elephant exhibit in Toronto, this book is a worthwhile read. It’s a positive look at the decisions made by activists in both Canada and the US to help the elephants live a happier and healthier life, and it’s an fascinating look at the incredible journey the elephants made to reach their new home in California.

Highly Recommended.

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Resource Links

“A book that combines the true story of transporting three elephants from the Toronto Zoo to a new home in California in 2013, and factual information about elephants. The details about this removal from the zoo to a Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in Calavaras County, California are precise. Details of the death of one of the elephants from degenerative foot and joint problems eighteen months after the move are included to illustrate the potential problems of housing animals in zoos. The limited size of enclosures and artificial surfaces employed cause defects that may occur when the animal can[not] roam and keep their bodies fit.

The art of Brian Deines shows the similarities between the Californian highlands and the savannahs of Africa, in contrast to the snowy concrete world of the Toronto Zoo, which adds much to the character and enjoyment of this book.”
—Mavis Holder

Metroland Media

“A heartwarming nature adventure for children, Elephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity chronicles the steps in relocating the last three surviving elephants at the Toronto Zoo to their more appropriate home at the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California.

Rob Laidlaw, author and founder of Zoocheck, has written an entertaining account of this journey for young children where he shows how the less than an acre enclosure, with Canadian winters, was nothing like the native African home the animals should be enjoying.

After considerable work and effort by many people, the three elephants – Toka, Thika and Iringa – were transported to a much more suitable and healthier place. The PAWS sanctuary boasts “eighty acres of natural land” where the animals can explore “hills, trees, streams, and grasslands” compared to the “barely one acre of mostly barren ground” in Toronto the animals were forced to endure for years.

At the end of the inspirational story the author has included information about elephants and the dramatic events that resulted in their rescue and better life at the PAWS sanctuary.

Complemented with excellent illustrations by Brian Deines and photographs, Elephant Journey is an important book, with an important message, that parents, teachers and other educators would be wise to share with their children.”

This review was published in:

Inside Halton
Our Windsor
MuskokaRegion.com
DurhamRegion.com
NorthBayNipissing.com
ParrySound.com
Simcoe.com

49th Shelf “Our Favourite Picture Books of 2015″

“This book captures the real-life journey of three elephants from the Toronto Zoo to their new home at an animal sanctuary in California, the story also framing the difficulties of wild animals in captivity and our changing understanding of zoos and their purposes. From acclimatizing the elephants to their travel crates, to transporting the crates by crane onto transport trucks, and then those transport trucks’ long, winding journey across the continent (which includes the drivers dousing the wheels with water as the brakes start to overheat while they’re climbing up and down mountains in Utah and Nevada), Laidlaw’s words and Deines’ illustrations work perfectly together to bring this tale to life.”

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Victoria Times Colonist

“Elephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity, by Rob Laidlaw with art by Brian Deines (Pajama Press), is another thought-provoking read for kids. Told in easy-to-understand language, it’s the story of a complicated effort to retire three elephants from the Toronto Zoo to an open-air animal sanctuary in California. As with Borrowed Men, this one will provide many opportunities for discussion with kids, starting with: Why would people want to keep the elephants in Toronto, even if it’s not good for them? It includes real-life photos, always a plus.”

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Toronto Public Library Top Picks for December 2015

“This picture book tells the true story of Toronto Zoo’s three elephants, Toka, Thika and Iringa, who were relocated to the PAWS sanctuary in California in 2013. The gorgeous oil paintings by Brian Deines show the beauty and intelligence of these wonderful animals, but also reflect the hardship they experienced living in captivity and in a climate so different from where they were born. Toronto readers may recognize local touches in the artwork, including landmarks at the Toronto Zoo and a Toronto police cruiser. This uplifting tale has a hopeful ending and is a great introduction to elephants and animal activism for younger kids.”

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Youth Services Book Review

“In October of 2013 three African elephants, Iringa, Thika and Toka, who had lived at the Toronto Zoo for many years, were given sanctuary at PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) in California. Toka and Iringa had been wild born and stolen from their mothers when very young to be taken to a zoo in the cold clime of Toronto, Canada. Thika was born at the Toronto Zoo. Outrage at the small enclosure for these three elephants living in an unnatural climate finally lead to their being trucked all the way to sanctuary in California. Photographs and illustrations accompany the text.

To whom would you recommend this book? Put this one on display to attract a wider audience and recommend to kids and adults who like elephants and want to learn about their plight in captivity.

Who should buy this book? All public and elementary school libraries.”

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Youth Services Book Review

What did you like about the book? The living conditions for three elephants in a Toronto zoo are inhumane; the elephants’ enclosure is too small and conditions in the winter are too cold. Moved by the elephants’ plight, Canadian citizens campaign to move the elephants to a larger, warmer refuge located in California to live out the remainder of their lives. Despite opposition by zoo officials who prefer a move to another zoo, the citizens prevail, and the elephants are moved to the PAWS (Performing Animals Welfare Society) sanctuary.  Deines uses an attractive color palette of soft violet, saffron, and brown hues to convey the seriousness of the elephants’ plight and their (qualified) happy ending (an addendum tells us that not long after arriving at the PAWS sanctuary, Iringa, one of the elephants had to be euthanized). Five pages at the end show photos of the elephants and provide additional facts about elephants….

To whom would you recommend this book?  This serves as a gentle introduction to animal rights suitable for third grade and up. Pair with other picture books about animals in captivity whose situations were improved such as Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla.

Who should buy this book? Elementary libraries and public libraries.”

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Pickle Me This

Elephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity, by Rob Laidlaw and Brian Deines, is a fantastic non-fiction book that uses the power of narrative (and the award-winning Deines’ gorgeous illustrations) to bring complex issues of animal protection to life…

…Four pages of photographs, fact boxes and additional text add context and background to Laidlaw’s story, though the book stands well enough on its own without it. It’s a harrowing story with a most hopeful ending, and will make a definite impression on readers of all ages.”
—Kerry Clare

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Sal’s Fiction Addiction

“I have long admired the work that Rob Laidlaw does to help protect wild animals from the indignity of being held captive, whether by a circus or a zoo. His books for children have informed, enlightened and encouraged readers to get involved in making a difference in the life of any animal.

In his newest book Rob tells the story of three elephants from the Toronto Zoo who are eventually moved to a healthier place, where they might live their lives as they were meant to be lived. Their story is compelling and caused a lot of anxiety for those who love animals.

…Brian Deines’ fabulous oil paintings chronicle their trip. His paintings were made using footage from the trip, and accurately portray for interested readers the joy and bravery of these magnificent pachyderms as they journeyed across a vast land to a more suitable home.

Back matter includes clear and appealing photographs, captioned with accurate and much appreciated further information. An Acknowledgements section, and an index can also be found there…”
—Sally Bender

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Kids’ Book Buzz

“…This is both a happy and sad story.  It is sad because the elephants were unhealthy and unhappy at the zoo.  It is happy because they were freed to live the rest of their lives in the animal sanctuary.”

—Reviewed by Elena, Age 7

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Vegbooks

“Rob Laidlaw, one of my favorite children’s authors covering animal protection topics, recently released his latest title, Elephant Journey, which follows Toka, Thika, and Iringa in their travels and experiences. (I received a copy of this book to review.)

…This lifelong journey to sanctuary was no small feat, and the majority of the book’s pages focus on the last leg of the journey from the zoo to California: the fabrication of special transport units, the Canadian-US border crossing, and overcoming mountainous, snowy terrain. Subdued oil paintings by Brian Deines based on actual footage from the trip make this a calm, easy-to-follow and hopeful storyline. And this wouldn’t be a Laidlaw title unless their was some science, which comes in the form of an index, photographs and additional information at the end of the book.

So much of what PAWS does goes without the recognition it deserves. This 40-page book does a beautiful job of telling a powerful story that demonstrates why sanctuaries, animal activists, and nonprofits are so important: because they help real animals who have endured so much, like Toka, Thika, and Iringa, and are making great strides towards creating a world free from harm, free of captivity.

Recommended.”

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The Calgary Herald

“This is the story of Toka, Thika and Iringa, the last three surviving elephants at the Toronto Zoo. Animal protection activists, fearing for their health, appealed to the zoo to have them sent to a sanctuary in California. It follows their joirney of 4,100 kilometres. This book will appeal to young readers ages eight to 10 who love animal stories.”

The Booklist Reader

“Laidlaw, an animal protection activist, tells the story in this fascinating picture book…. Illustrator Brian Deines based his lovely oil paintings on photographs of the elephants’ journey and new life in California.”

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Alohamora Open a Book

“Did you know an elephant’s trunk has more than 60,000 muscles? This is just one of many things I learned from this fantastic book.

Elephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity by Rob Laidlaw is a great non-fiction picture book. That means it is a great book with true facts, but it reads like a story.

I give Elephant Journey 4.5 out of 5 Stars; to be honest that is a pretty impressive score from me. This book earned the high rating for its great illustrated pictures, shown above, and photographs, shown below, just before the index giving a more non-fiction layout kind of feel.

I actually really like the design of the book. I appreciate how the author and illustrator distinguished between the story and the nitty gritty details. The illustrated pictures tell the story of Toka, Thika, and Iringa, the three elephants and their journey out of captivity. The illustrations are beautiful. The real photograph section goes more in depth into how the elephants made the journey, how the elephants thrived after (there was a super sad part), fascinating facts about elephants, and why captivity is so hard on elephants.
Elephant Journey is a great book, and I see a lot of value in it….[F]rom a reading level, interest level, and collection point of view I think this book is best suited for 4th- 6th grade (boys and girls alike), but older students could benefit with reading it and writing persuasive papers around the topic of elephants in captivity….

All in all, it was a powerful, educational, and enjoyable book to read….

If you have an elephant lover in your life, or you want to learn more about elephants in captivity definitely check this book out.”

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