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The Elephant from Baghdad [Kindle Edition]

Mary Tavener Holmes , John Harris , John Cannell
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Print List Price: $17.99
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Book Description

Who would have thought that the emperor Charlemagne would make friends with an albino elephant, a gift from the caliph of Baghdad? Told from the fictionalized point of view of a monk who set down the actual story in 883 884 CE, the book follows the elephant's journey through Egypt, across the Mediterranean to Italy and across the Alps to Germany. When the elephant finally reaches his destination, Charlemagne is so delighted with his exotic new pet that he introduces him to his many children and bathes with him in the hot springs near his palace. When the elephant dies of old age, the emperor is heartbroken. Jon Cannell invigorates his charming mixed-media artwork with artifacts, paintings, and sculpture from earlier centuries. An Author's Note about the origins of the story and the remarkable water clock carried by the elephant is included.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The team behind A Giraffe Goes to Paris (2010) continues its pursuit of historic megafauna with this tale of Abu the white elephant, sent to Charlemagne by the caliph Harun al-Rashid. Though the story shares many of its predecessor’s attractions—the wonderful outlandishness of the idea of taking a huge animal on a long journey, the delight of human-animal bonds—it suffers a bit by comparison. The medieval monk Notker the Stammerer provides narration as the ambassadors from Charlemagne’s court arrive in Baghdad to find “artists, musicians, scholars, mathematicians, architects, and poets.... The Europeans were treated to concerts and fine meals, even sherbet made of snow.” The caliph sends Charle-magne’s representatives back with “presents fit for a fellow emperor,” including an elaborate clock (discussed further in end notes) and, of course, Abu. The journey back to Aachen and Abu’s somewhat quiet relationship with Charlemagne may leave some readers feeling wistful—too bad they couldn’t all have stayed in warm, lively Baghdad. Yet the eye-opening depiction of a city now known as a war zone as a paradise is worth the price of admission. Ages 5–8.
-Publisher's Weekly March 2012

From Booklist

Ages 5-8—Did you know that Charlemagne would bathe with his white elephant, a gift from the caliph of Baghdad? No? Well, let the monk tell the tale. Charlemagne, emperor of most of the Western world, was curious about Harun Al-Rashid, an impressive Muslim leader. So he embarked upon a journey that took him from Germany to Italy, across the Mediterranean, through Cairo, and finally into Baghdad. There the travelers were stunned by the sophisticated society that they found. Most intriguing? The Muslim world’s knowledge about science, medicine, and engineering, far exceeding what Europeans knew. At Charlegmagne’s departure, Harun gave him gifts; the most precious was Abu, a white elephant. As they journeyed home, the elephant and the ruler forged a lifelong friendship. A primitive yet joyful art style brings the story close to children, but photographic artifacts from Charlemagne’s reign are interwoven, giving the visual element depth. Though the relationship between Abu and Charlemagne is tender, perhaps the best part of this shows the easy, generous friendship between two powerful, very different leaders. Booklist, May 2012

Product Details

  • File Size: 9438 KB
  • Print Length: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Two Lions (May 1, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007IVL8XM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,013 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant June 28, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Elephant From Baghdad is a pleasant book with good illustrations. I was expecting the story and illustrations to be more enchanting. There is nothing wrong with either, the story is decent and well written; and the illustrations and photographs are nice. My first thought is always, would I read this story to my sons when they were the appropriate age? In this case, well, no not really.

This book would work perfectly in a museum store if there were an exhibit of things from Charlemagne. It feels more like a documentary than a story.

The printing is nice. The hardback binding is solid. The paper stock is a decent weight. The book is printed in China. I honestly would rather pay a bit more money for printing outside China.

This is a pleasant book, but not one I would read to my sons or think they would devour reading themselves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
As an art student in college, I had many times seen images of elephants carrying large clocks in older art, but I never knew the back story to this artistic element. My mother is a history buff that eats, drinks and absorbs these types of stories and she said she had never heard about Charlemagne's elephant before, either... what a great bit of real history for children to painlessly learn in this charming book! While the illustrations are not quite my style, they are really enchanting. A blend of almost Byzantine style with the whimsy of a children's book blended together. I was hoping the book would be more charming than it actually was. I would have liked a bit more to the story. I know that children's books are typically short for good reason, but I believe this one was a bit short-changed in the length department. One moment, the book states that Charlemagne visited the elephant twice a day, but later it says "when Charlemagne heard that Abu had died..." I think the story could have been really been expounded on here. Perhaps Charlemagne reading to his children when a servant comes in and tells him that his Abu had died. I think the story suffered a little bit from perhaps self-imposed brevity. Still, the story is an intriguing one. I found myself thinking about the life this elephant had - in such foreign landscapes - dealing with winter temperatures, not seeing another of its kind for the rest of its life... and how others in Germany must have marveled at seeing a creature some may have never heard of before and would never see anywhere else in their lifetimes. There are photos of historical objects from the period that also document this snapshot in time of a king who perhaps had the best white elephant gift ever. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More about art than it is about storytelling. July 24, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have the same problem with this book as I do with A Giraffe Goes to Paris: I find the idea of these books to be interesting and the presentation of them charming; however, in attempting to tell stories to children that are not really relevant to their own history or experience and using language that is not necessarily decipherable by children, the ideas and the presentation become not very educational, nor very interesting to their audience unless that audience is adult.

For instance, "One was Abu the elephant, who had come a long way from Baghdad, the center of the Muslim world. The other was Charlemagne, who ruled over most of Europe from his striped and stony palace in the ancient city of Aachen, Germany. How did this come to pass?" (3.)

Children might ask: Who? Where? Who? Where?

And later, "Harun wanted to send ONE more precious present to the great emperor of the West.

"He thought and thought and finally decided that the only present worthy of Charlemagne was the rarest of rare treasures in his court: the elephant named Abu." (20.)

As an adult reader, I found this story to be sad and wondered if this wasn't some form of extortion for Charlemagne to send his people to Baghdad to "collect" some gifts. They sent their most prized possession? That's just terrible. They don't mention any gifts sent by Charlemagne.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different look at Charlemagne August 14, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I got this book on a whim, mostly based on the description and the "historical" nature of the story. I love historical fiction myself, and I use a lot of it with my children -- or I use stories based on history, which is more the category this book falls into.

I read it aloud to my 7 and 9 year olds, and they loved it but had a really tough time believing it was based in reality. That meant going back through the illustrations and finding some of the photographs of real stuff and differentiating that from the drawings. It also meant we talked about the drawings and what part of this is based on reality and what might be a little "made up."

The kids determined that the "Hannibal was here" sign in the Alps was probably a bit made up, though that did generate a discussion about what they know about Hannibal (not much, apparently).

I loved that this book used big words and big ideas. The illustrations have an 'eastern' feel to them, in a kids' book type of way.

This is a story I can read again, and it is a story my kids will enjoy hearing again as well.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars This was a fun addition to our studies on the Middle Ages
This was a fun addition to our studies on the Middle Ages, telling the story of a most unique gift from Eastern ruler Haroun al Rashid to Western Emperor Charlemagne.
Published 3 months ago by Shelli
5.0 out of 5 stars She enjoyed the story so much we read the book several ...
I downloaded this book for my five year old granddaughter. She enjoyed the story so much we read the book several times together (she can read). Read more
Published 10 months ago by C. Weaver
5.0 out of 5 stars Book for Grandchildren
My grandchildren are 8 and 5. They loved this book. The 8 year old
is an advanced reader and made a book report for school using this book.
Published 19 months ago by J. Voorheis
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Children's Storytelling
Charlemagne was gifted with an elephant named Abu from the caliph of Baghdad - who knew? This charming tale seems to have flown under the radar for a while. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Kort
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely book
This story of Charlemagne and the white elephant is a wonderful depiction of both the Frankish and Moslem cultures in the ninth century. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Dorothy Keyser
4.0 out of 5 stars For your little history buff
My 6yr old (advanced reader) is a lover of all history. This is a great age appropriate book for him. Read more
Published 21 months ago by kelpiegirl
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for the young elephant enthusiast, my 11yo granddaughter...
The Elephant from Baghdad is very similar to A Giraffe Goes to Paris which are both based upon tales from long ago. Read more
Published 21 months ago by  Jeri Zerr 
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Giraffe, just as captivating
My daughter loves this just as much as the Giraffe book. It never fails to live up to its expectations, and both the story and illustrations are captivating.
Published 21 months ago by Jodi
5.0 out of 5 stars A Strange but True Friendship
My two 7-year old sons and I enjoyed this entertaining yet true story of how Charlemagne was gifted Abu, an albino elephant, from the caliph of Baghdad in the year 802. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Gabriel's Buddy
5.0 out of 5 stars Combines history and whimsey
I love the books in this series, which use historical animal stories, real artifacts, and charming, simple illustrations. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Cupcake
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