Learn more about elephants in the wild and captivity through The Sanctuary's recommended reading list for elephant lovers of all ages.
Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top
Carol Bradley (2014)
Against the backdrop of a glittering but brutal circus world, Last Chain charts the history of elephants in America, the inspiring story of The Elephant Sanctuary, and the spell-binding tale of Billie—a resilient elephant who defied the system.
Behemoth: The History of the Elephant in America
Ronald Tobias (2013)
In Behemoth, Ronald Tobias has written the first comprehensive history of the elephant in America. As tragic as it is comic, this enthralling chronicle traces this animal's indelible footprint on American culture.
Elephant Don: The Politics of a Pachyderm Posse
Caitlin O'Connell (2015)
Meet Greg. He’s a stocky guy with an outsized swagger. He’s been the intimidating yet sociable don of his posse of friends—including Abe, Keith, Mike, Kevin, Torn Trunk, and Willie. But one arid summer, the tide begins to shift and the third-ranking Kevin starts to get ambitious, seeking a higher position within this social club. But this is no ordinary tale of gangland betrayal—Greg and his entourage are bull elephants in Etosha National Park, Namibia, where, for the last 23 years, Caitlin O’Connell has been a keen observer of their complicated friendships.
Michael Daly (2014)
In 1903, on Coney Island, an elephant named Topsy was electrocuted. This bizarre execution has reverberated through popular culture with the whiff of urban legend. But it really happened, and many historical forces conspired to bring Topsy, Thomas Edison, and those 6,600 volts of alternating current together. In Topsy, Daly weaves them together into a fascinating popular history.
Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family
Cynthia Moss (1988)
For animal lovers and anyone concerned with the preservation of wildlife, Moss has written an extraordinary chronicle. Elephant Memories is nothing less than an impassioned plea for the elephants' continued survival.
The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the the Herd in the African Wild
Lawrence Anthony (2012)
Lawrence Anthony devoted his life to animal conservation, protecting the world's endangered species. Then he was asked to accept a herd of "rogue" wild elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand. His common sense told him to refuse, but he was the herd's last chance of survival: they would be killed if he wouldn't take them. In order to save their lives, Anthony took them in. In the years that followed, he became a part of their family. And as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he came to realize that they had a great deal to teach him about life, loyalty, and freedom.
Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
Vicki Croke (2015)
Billy Williams came to colonial Burma in 1920, fresh from service in World War I, to a job as a “forest man” for a British teak company. Mesmerized by the intelligence, character, and even humor of the great animals who hauled logs through the remote jungles, he became a gifted “elephant wallah.” Increasingly skilled at treating their illnesses and injuries, he also championed more humane treatment for them, even establishing an elephant “school” and “hospital.” In return, he said, the elephants made him a better man. The friendship of one magnificent tusker in particular, Bandoola, would be revelatory. In Elephant Company, Vicki Constantine Croke chronicles Williams’s growing love for elephants as the animals provide him lessons in courage, trust, and gratitude.
Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story
Daphne Sheldrick (2013)
The first person to successfully raise newborn elephants, Dame Daphne Sheldrick has saved countless African animals from certain death. In this indelible and deeply heartfelt memoir, Daphne tells of her remarkable career as a conservationist and introduces us to a whole host of orphans―including Bushy, a liquid-eyed antelope, and the majestic elephant Eleanor. Yet she also shares the incredible human story of her relationship with David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo National Park warden whose death inspired the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the orphans' nursery, where Daphne works to this day. From her tireless campaign to preserve Kenya's wildlife to the astonishing creatures she befriended along the way.
Gods in Chains
Rhea Ghosh (2005)
Gods in Chains hopes to highlight the conditions of captive elephants, as they are currently used and kept in India. Initially started as an informal documentation, Gods in Chains later expanded to become a ‘handbook of sorts’, for anyone wanting to know more of the reality behind the veil of glamour and majesty of the captive pachyderm, especially in temple rituals and festival processions. The often troubled and complex relationship with their only companion, the ‘mahout,’ is also a story of pathos and heartbreak for a deeply social and community-minded animal.
Katy Payne (1999)
This memoir of scientific discovery begins at the Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Oregon, where Katy Payne's revolutionary work in the field of elephant communication began. It was there that she first discovered the idea that elephants use infrasonic sounds -- sounds below the range of human hearing -- to communicate. This led Payne and her colleagues to conduct field research in Kenya, Namibia, and Zimbabwe that brought about fascinating new insights into elephants' social lives. When five of the elephant families they were studying became victims of culling, Payne changed her approach to her research as she fought valiantly to protect African elephants.
Jodi Picoult (2014)
Alice Metcalf was a devoted mother, loving wife and accomplished scientist who studied grief among elephants. Yet it’s been a decade since she disappeared under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind her small daughter, husband, and the animals to which she devoted her life. All signs point to abandonment...or worse. Still Jenna—now 13 years old and truly orphaned by a father maddened by grief—steadfastly refuses to believe in her mother's desertion. So she decides to approach the two people who might still be able to help her find Alice: a disgraced psychic named Serenity Jones, and Virgil Stanhope, the cynical detective who first investigated her mother's disappearance and the strange, possibly linked death of one of her mother's co-workers. Together these three lonely souls will discover truths destined to forever change their lives. Deeply moving and suspenseful, Jodi Picoult's first novel with Random House Canada is a radiant exploration of the enduring love between mothers and daughters.
Diane Hammond (2008)
For 41 years, Samson Brown has been caring for Hannah, the lone elephant at the down-at-the-heels Max L. Biedelman Zoo. Having vowed not to retire until an equally loving and devoted caretaker is found to replace him, Sam rejoices when smart, compassionate Neva Wilson is hired as the new elephant keeper. But Neva quickly discovers what Sam already knows: that despite their loving care, Hannah is isolated from other elephants and her feet are nearly ruined from standing on hard concrete all day. Using her contacts in the zoo-keeping world, Neva and Sam hatch a plan to send Hannah to an elephant sanctuary—just as the zoo's angry, unhappy director launches an aggressive revitalization campaign that spotlights Hannah as the star attraction, inextricably tying Hannah's future to the fate of the Max L. Biedelman Zoo. A charming, poignant, and captivating novel certain to enthrall readers of Water for Elephants, Diane Hammond's Hannah's Dream is a beautifully told tale rich in heart, humor, and intelligence.
Through the Eyes of Ernest: A Memoir to Honor Elephants
Debbie McFee (2013)
Ernest is an elephant, one of thousands of elephants kept in zoos and circuses for the amusement of humans. Throughout the day, humans stare at him and make silly faces. At night, he’s confined to a tiny enclosure. Born in captivity, Ernest has no idea about life in the wild, where close-knit families of elephants live as long as humans—presuming humans let them. His first elephant friend, wild born Frankie, tells Ernest all about the pleasures of living wild, and the family he misses so much.
When humans send Ernest to the circus to perform, he meets other wild born elephants, including wise old Mary and majestic, motherly Eve. Ernest learns more about what he’s been denied even as he discovers the rigorous, sometimes brutal world of circus training. A somber but ultimately hopeful tale told from an elephant’s point of view, Through the Eyes of Ernest asks us to consider why we keep such intelligent, social animals in captivity.
The White Bone: A Novel
Barbara Gowdy (2000)
If, as many recent nonfiction bestsellers have revealed, animals possess emotions and awareness, they must also have stories. In The White Bone, a novel imagined entirely from the perspective of African elephants, Barbara Gowdy creates a world whole and separate that yet illuminates our own. For years, young Mud and her family have roamed the high grasses, swamps, and deserts of the sub-Sahara. Now the earth is scorched by drought, and the mutilated bodies of family and friends lie scattered on the ground, shot down by ivory hunters. Nothing—not the once familiar terrain, or the age-old rhythms of life, or even memory itself-seems reliable anymore. Yet a slim prophecy of hope is passed on from water hole to water hole: the sacred white bone of legend will point the elephants toward the Safe Place. And so begins a quest through Africa's vast and perilous plains, until at last, the survivors face a decisive trial of loyalty and courage.
Fiction for Young Readers:
The One and Only Ivan
Katherine Applegate (2012)
Recommended grades 4–6
Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendships. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point-of-view of Ivan himself. Having spent 27 years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.
An Elephant In the Garden
Michael Morpurgo, (2013)
Recommended grades 5–9
Lizzie and Karl's mother is a zoo keeper; the family has become attached to an orphaned elephant named Marlene, who will be destroyed as a precautionary measure so she and the other animals don't run wild should the zoo be hit by bombs. The family persuades the zoo director to let Marlene stay in their garden instead. When the city is bombed, the family flees with thousands of others, but how can they walk the same route when they have an elephant in tow, and keep themselves safe? Along the way, they meet Peter, a Canadian navigator who risks his own capture to save the family. As Michael Morpurgo writes in an author's note, An Elephant in the Garden is inspired by historical truths, and by his admiration for elephants, "the noblest and wisest and most sensitive of all creatures." Here is a story that brings together an unlikely group of survivors whose faith in kindness and love proves the best weapon of all.
Once Upon an Elephant
Linda Stanek (2016)
Recommended grades preK–2
From slowing wildfires to planting seeds, one animal is the true superhero that keeps the African savanna in balance. Elephants dig to find salt that other animals lick, their deep footprints collect water for small creatures to drink, and they eat young trees to keep the forest from overtaking the grasslands. In every season, the elephants are there to protect the savanna and its residents, but what would happen if the elephants were only once upon a time? Read along to discover the important role this keystone species plays in the savanna and explore what would happen if the elephants vanished.
When Anju Loved Being an Elephant
Wendy Henrichs (2011)
Recommended grades 1–4.
Growing up on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with its cooling lakes and refreshing mud holes, Anju loved being an elephant. Lovingly cared for and protected by her mother and herd family, there was nowhere else Anju would rather be. That all changed when she was stolen and sold to an American circus. Anju spends decades traveling across the country, entertaining crowds. After the circus, she's then moved to a small zoo for 23 years, their lone elephant. Anju no longer loved being an elephant. She was old and tired. Will Anju ever love being an elephant again?
Tembo Takes Charge
Thea Feldman (2006)
Recommended grades PreK–2
Tembo is an elephant who lives with his elephant family on the savanna of Africa. Animal Planet has captured rare pictures of the lives these giants.
Non-Fiction for Young Readers:
Ian Redmond (2000)
Recommended grades 3–7
Discover the world of elephants—their natural history, behavior and how humans have changed their lives. Here is a spectacular and informative guide to the fascinating world of elephants. Superb color photographs of Asian and African elephants, their living relatives and reconstructions of their ancestors offer a unique "eyewitness" view of these remarkable animals, their natural history and relationship with people. See the adult "tusker," inside an elephant's mouth, a baby elephant feeding, an elephant in a threatening posture, elephants at work, and an elephant painting a picture. Learn how to tell an African from an Asian elephant at a glance, why elephants are worshipped, how long an elephant's tusks can grow, how elephants "talk" to each other, and why the future of elephants is threatened. Discover why elephants walk on their tiptoes, how much food an adult elephant eats in a day, the cruelty of the ivory trade, why elephants flap their ears, what an elephant does to keep cool, how intelligent elephants are, and much, much more.
The Elephant Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series)
Caitlin O'Connell (2011)
Recommended grades 5–7
In the sprawling African scrub desert of Etosha National Park, they call her "the mother of all elephants." Camouflaged and peering through binoculars, Caitlin O'Connell—the American scientist who traveled to Namibia to study African elephants in their natural habitat—could not believe what she was seeing. As the mighty matriarch scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, stopping midstride and standing as still as statues. The observation would be one of many to guide O'Connell to a groundbreaking discovery!
Patrick McDowell (2011)
In his characteristic heartwarming style, Patrick McDonnell tells the story of the young Jane Goodall and her special childhood toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. As the young Jane observes the natural world around her with wonder, she dreams of "a life living with and helping all animals," until one day she finds that her dream has come true. One of the world's most inspiring women, Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization that empowers people to make a difference for all living things. With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall's autobiography, McDonnell makes this very true story accessible for the very young—and young at heart.