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Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War Paperback – October 30, 1997


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 6
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (October 30, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395861373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395861370
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.8 x 0.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A zookeeper narrates the story of how there came to be graves at the zoo: when Tokyo was showered with bombs during the bleak days of World War II, the authorities feared that if the zoo were destroyed, the animals might accidentally be freed and wreak havoc on the city. So they decided that all the zoo animals would be killed. But the elephants wouldn't eat the poisonous food they were offered, and the needles in the syringes containing poison broke before they could penetrate the elephants' rough skin. So the elephants were starved to death, a slow and painful process watched by the zookeepers who loved them. An upsetting story for children or adults, this powerfully conveys the deadly side effects of war. Lewin's watercolors show the massive gray bodies in their state of decline; it is impossible not to appreciate the heartbreak of the animals' plight. But this is a book that provokes questions about the nature of death and dying (children may read into this that some may be killed for the greater good of all), and so should be chosen with care. All ages.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-8 In an unnamed war, Tokyo was being bombed ``day and night.'' The Army commands that the dangerous animals in the Tokyo Zoo be poisoned so that they might not escape in the event of a direct hit (witness a double-page spread of a dead tiger, a bear, a lion, and a large snake). When it is the elephant's turn to die, he refuses to eat food which has been poisoned and his skin is too thick to take an injection of poison, so the decision is made to starve him to death. Two more elephants must follow, and the real tension produced in the story is the pathos surrounding the torturously slow death of these big pets by depriving them of all food and water. No punches are pulled: these dying elephants use some of their last strength to perform a trick for which they have been customarily rewarded with food and water. They die, horribly, and are mourned by the zookeepers who ``raised their fists to the sky and implored `Stop the war! Stop the war! Stop all wars!' '' Lewin's lustrous watercolors soften the hard edges of the story: his backgrounds appear as if washed with tears. This is an odd choice for a children's book. Indeed, the High Moral Purpose here must be interpreted as having more to do with the heartlessness of the zoo keepers than the cruelty of war. Yet, to follow logically, it would seem spurious for a writer to suggest that children ``realize the human ideal'' so that elephants will never go hungry again. And it is also somehow churlish to implicate children in the stupidities of adults. No amount of rhetorical conceit will make Faithful Elephants any more than a book which demonstrates an immoral cruelty to animals. Christina L. Olson, Beverly Hills Public Library
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

It's very, VERY sad, and every time I read it I cry.
Hingoldsby
Anyway, so they officials go about poisoning all the animals, however every method they try does not work with the elephants.
T. Boden
Faithful Elephants-A True Story of Animals, People, and War is an amazing book.
Angela

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've read this book in English and recently in Japanese with the help of a Japanese friend. The Japanese version I read was the same story, but written and illustrated by different people (a man named Mamoru Tanabe was the author of the version I read). At any rate, the Japanese version made mention of something that I don't think is included in this English translation. The official reason from Tokyo for killing the elephants was that in the event that Tokyo was bombed, the cages could be destroyed and the animals might be let loose upon the city. But the book also says that although that was the official reason, the underlying reason that government officials probably had in mind was to show the people of Japan that in this war, they would have to be ready to sacrifice anything for their country. If it was necessary, the lives of animals or even other people would have to be given up for the good of Japan. A previous reviewer mentioned the same thing, but as far as I remember the English version of the story doesn't address that idea at all. So for all those people wondering why the elephants had to die in such a cruel way, there's your answer: to show the Japanese people the true horrors of war, and make them feel ready to sacrifice anything in order to bring that war to an end.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By bookaddict on January 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have just read the French version of this book (Fideles Elephants) which won a Governor General's Award in Canada, and was checking to see about buying the English version. I just read all the reviews here and must agree with all of them... even the one stating it is propaganda. It is propaganda: anti-war and anti-cruelty propaganda. And I also have no idea why they did not just shoot those poor elephants... illogical and very humanly cruel behaviour.
As a result of people's fears (we never do learn if indeed the zoo was ever damaged) that damaged cages would result in rampaging wild animals, all the "dangerous" ones are killed, and the elephants end up being starved to death, while they faithfully attempt to extract food from their keepers (captors? torturers?)by repeating the entertaining routines they have been trained to do.
I would not recommend this book for small children and am astonished to see this in the picture book sections... I would have had nightmares for years as a child. As an adult, I find the image of these elephants attempting to carry out their routines when they are too weak to stand absolutely indelible and horrific. I cried reading the book, I cried in a coffeeshop trying to tell a friend about it, and thinking about it now makes me want to lock my arms around my torso and cry. I don't know if it is an indictment of war, or perhaps of zoos, or of human inaction ("easier" to let something die of neglect than actively shoot it... so many of our tragedies in life result from this sort of inaction).
A book I want to recommend to everyone, and at the same time protect them from. And then I think, no, that is just protecting them from a true story, reality. And reality even this poetic is just appallingly sad. Read and weep.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By sudhir kochhar on September 30, 2002
Format: School & Library Binding
I read this book with my 9 year old daughter....and we both cried....tears dried up but the pain lingered....
Why, oh why, did these animals have to suffer so much, they had'nt wronged anyone, they were not at war with anyone, papa? They needed to be looked after by humans, who had bought them here against their will, and those humans decided their fate with death? Why could'nt they be let loose in a jungle?
My daughter consulted an atlas, looked at the map of Japan and asked why could'nt the animals be taken to some remote part of the country which was less likely to be effected by war? Why was not the enemy told to stay away from the zoo which housed so many helpless and innocent animals, and for this the zoo could have been highlighted by placing lights or lighting fires all around it's boundary? Why did'nt mother nature come to their rescue? What must the animals have thought....their caretakers have become their killers....how betrayed and grief-stricken they must have felt? If the effects of war are so bad and sad, why is war not banned? I could feel her sadness....her turmoil...her helplessness. She was trying to find a way so that such things are not repeated, wars are stopped, and she came out with her own solution....she decided to type the whole story, word by word, and send it over email to all her friends and all email addresses that she could get hold of!! She also decided to set up a table beside her school gate, with this book on it, and request all visitors who came to attend the pet show being organised by her school on 4th Oct'02,which is the World Animal Welfare Day, to go through this book!
The questions she asked me were many....and many may have remained unasked in that young mind....
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By E. Angel on April 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya, translated by Tomoko Tsuchiya Dykes and illustrated by Ted Lewin, is a very moving picture book story. It describes how during World War II three elephants at the Tokyo Zoo were euthanized by starvation, because of concerns that they might escape during an air raid and become dangerous. I plan to use the story with my 4th and 5th grade reading group as part of a unit about WWII, but one thing that troubles me about using such an emotional story, is that I do not understand where fact and fiction meet here. The subtitle reads "A True Story of Animals, People and War", and the introduction also describes it as a true story. I can't help wondering though why the animals had to be killed in such an inhumane way. Did the army forbid the use of an elephant gun because they did not want to "waste" ammunition? Aren't there ways to drug even animals as large as elephants? How do veterinarians treat elephants? And what happened at zoos in other parts of the world where there were air raid attacks, and similar risks that wild animals might escape and cause problems?
After writing this review two weeks ago, I discussed the book with other teachers in my school and decided that to use it with 4th and 5th graders would be committing a kind of emotional highjacking. We read a number of books together during our WWII unit and I plan to finish up with another zoo story - Hannah's Winter of Hope by Jean vna Leewen, which tells how the people of Budapest saved their hippo from starvation during the occupation.
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