The Elephant Thief begins in the slums of Edinburg with a street urchin, who comes to be known as Danny. He is given the opportunity of a new life when he is drawn into a plan to walk an elephant from Edinburgh to Manchester.
The book is based on a true story which happened in April 1872. In the endnotes the author, Jane Kerr, acknowledges that in reality the walk was fairly uneventful however, in the story she has created, it is very eventful. The author does a good job of combining drama, mystery and suspense as the elephant, his trainer, the owners, a vet and his daughter, plus Danny make the long journey.
There are many problems along the way which hinder their progress. Due to a bet, they only have a week to complete the journey or the owners will, not only lose possession of the elephant, but also their other animals. This adds significant tension to the story.
The relationship between the elephant, Maharajah and Danny develops into an important part of the story as Danny becomes emotionally attached to Maharajah. The relationship becomes pivotal in Danny’s life and is a source of healing and comfort to him. The other members of the travelling party also become valuable to Danny and ultimately change the course of his life.
For young readers, please be aware there is some mild violence, references to past violence and the threat of menace. There is also a significant climatic fight scene, other altercations and an incident of animal cruelty.
Overall, it is a well-told, exciting adventure.
Thanks to Christian School Supplier for providing a free book for review.