by Marsha Rakestraw

Elephants are amazing beings. They’re extremely intelligent and social. They have matriarchal culture and grieve their dead. Their family bonds are strong.

We love them. We find them fascinating and majestic.

We humans also abuse and slaughter them. We kidnap them for circuses and zoos. We beat them into performing. We leave these social animals caged or chained alone. We kill them for their ivory, or for fun, or because we consider them pests. And we destroy their homes.

August 12 is World Elephant Day.

It’s a day focused on increasing awareness about the plight of elephants and on encouraging us to help protect elephants and their habitats.

Use books like these seven to help inspire young people to learn about challenges elephants are facing and to become elephant protectors and solutionaries.

Book cover: The One & Only IvanThe One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
2012. Grades 4-7.
Ivan, a gorilla, was captured as a baby in Africa and has lived much of his life in a mall, a living exhibit for humans to gape at through glass walls. Ivan pretty much accepts his lot in life, until he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family (as he was taken from his).


Book cover: What Elephants KnowWhat Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein
2016. Grades 4-8.
“My mother is an elephant and my father is an old man with one arm.” Nandu was abandoned as a baby in the jungle of the Nepalese Borderlands. Taken in and adopted by the Subba-sahib in charge of the Royal Elephant Stable, Nandu is raised by his adopted father and his adopted mother: an elephant named Devi Kali. In an effort to protect the future of his stable, Nandu is sent off to boarding school to learn the skills that will help him keep the stable safe in the new world that’s emerging.

Book cover: Little Elephant ThunderfootLittle Elephant Thunderfoot by Sally Grindley
1996. Grades K-2.
“Little Thunderfoot,” as he’s affectionately called, learns how to live and play from his grandmother, the herd matriarch. One day shots ring out and his grandmother falls to a poacher’s gun. What will Little Thunderfoot and the rest of his herd do without Wise Old One to guide them?


Book cover: Tua and the ElephantTua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris
2012. Grades 3-6.
While exploring the city, Tua discovers an elephant, who is being abused by her mahouts. Tua decides to rescue Pohn-Pohn, and risks her own safety to get her elephant friend to an elephant sanctuary deep in the jungle.


Book cover: When Anju Loved Being an ElephantWhen Anju Loved Being an Elephant by Wendy Henrichs
2011. Grades 1-3.
Anju is kidnapped at age 5 from her home in Indonesia, and spends the next 50 years performing in a circus and living as the only elephant in a zoo. She has only the memories of her life in Indonesia to keep her company. Finally she is sent to a sanctuary, where she can live out the rest of her life with other rescued elephants.


Book cover: ChainedChained by Lynne Kelly
2012. Grades 4-7.
In order to help his sick sister and to protect his mother from an abusive employer, Hastin gets a job as an elephant caretaker in a circus. But as soon as he arrives at the circus, he knows he has made a terrible mistake. His elephant friends are treated cruelly, and he realizes that his “boss” will never let him go. Hastin knows he must save his elephant friend – and himself.


Book cover: 5 Elephants5 Elephants by Rob Laidlaw
2014. Grades 4-6.
Elephants are complex, intelligent beings who have family units and a culture. Elephants are also some of the most-hunted animals on earth, as their tusks are highly sought after, they are considered “pests” or trophies by some, and they are captured and sold to be used for work, entertainment, or other purposes. 5 Elephants provides an overview of these amazing beings and some of the challenges and dangers they face.

Find more resources about Endangered Species on our Pinterest board.

Find more resources about Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trafficking on our Pinterest board.

For more suggested resources for children, check out our online Resource Center.

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