Reviews for Elephant in the Garden


Booklist Reviews 2011 October #1
Alternating narratives tell the story of a family's remarkable survival of the Allied bombing of Dresden in 1945. Lizzie's mother works at the Dresden Zoo, which plans to destroy its largest animals lest they escape during a bombing. Mutti rescues Marlene, an orphan elephant she raised from infancy. Marlene takes to her new family, particularly to Lizzie's little brother, Karli, and when the bombers arrive, Marlene accompanies them on their trek across Germany, away from the invading Russians and toward the advancing American army. Along the way, they meet a wounded Canadian soldier, who himself becomes an integral part of this makeshift family. Morpurgo frames the story with a contemporary perspective. Lizzie, now an elderly woman in a nursing home, tells her tale to the young son of a nurse who reminds her of her own young brother. The occasional interruptions to the story build suspense and add a layer of resonance to Morpurgo's poignant and thoughtful exploration of the terrible impact of war on both sides of the fighting. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
Lizzie, now an old woman, recounts how, on the eve of the 1945 Dresden bombing, an elephant protected her German family. After escaping the destroyed city, sixteen-year-old Lizzie, her brother and mother, and Peter, a Canadian RAF bomber, trek westward with elephant Marlene seeking refuge. Inspired by true events (conflated), Marlene's ability to aid the family throughout its journey is inspiring.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 August #2

Lizzie, a frail, aged nursing-home resident, relates to her nurse and the nurse's son her poignant World War II tale set in Dresden, Germany.

Lizzie's mother is a zookeeper at the Dresden Zoo, where she cares for its very young elephant. After zoo officials decide that the animals must be shot if Dresden is bombed, she convinces them that the baby elephant could be safely cared for in her back garden. What she doesn't anticipate is the firestorm that results from extreme Allied bombing in February of 1945. Sixteen-year-old Lizzie, her younger brother Karli, her mother and the elephant begin, on foot, a mid-winter journey toward the safety of a relative's rural home, where they encounter Peter, a Canadian flyer downed in the bombing. Together, they flee toward American lines. Lizzie's somewhat stilted voice as she recollects the events from her childhood creates a distance in the narrative that diminishes its punch. Her tale is also periodically—needlessly—interrupted, in a different type, as modern-day events intrude on her storytelling. While the present-day setting gives Morpurgo the opportunity to tie up loose ends, it ultimately distracts from the important, dismal reality of the war story and the plight of the refugees and animals.

A moving but somewhat flawed tale of human—and animal—courage in the face of tragic suffering. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 November #2

Inspired by a true story about an elephant rescued from a Belfast zoo during WWII, acclaimed British author Morpurgo (War Horse) pens a historical novel about a German family's struggle to survive as their country is torn apart. The story within a story begins with Lizzie, an aging woman in a Canadian nursing home, telling her nurse and her nurse's nine-year-old son, Karl, that she had an elephant in her garden when she was a child. In 1945 Dresden, 16-year-old Lizzie's father is serving in the war, and her zookeeper mother decides to save an elephant named Marlene from the mercy killings exacted on other animals prior to the anticipated bombings. Marlene lives in their garden, walks on leashes, and stuns neighbors until the devastating bombing of Dresden forces Lizzie, her mother, and brother on an even more surprising journey across Germany seeking safety. Morpurgo crafts a thought-provoking and perilous encounter with an enemy combatant who joins their party and eventually forges a believable romance with Lizzie. The novel's clean prose delivers a gripping and unconventional perspective on the tumultuous era. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Inspired by a true story about an elephant rescued from a Belfast zoo during WWII, acclaimed British author Morpurgo (War Horse) pens a historical novel about a German family's struggle to survive as their country is torn apart. The story within a story begins with Lizzie, an aging woman in a Canadian nursing home, telling her nurse and her nurse's nine-year-old son, Karl, that she had an elephant in her garden when she was a child. In 1945 Dresden, 16-year-old Lizzie's father is serving in the war, and her zookeeper mother decides to save an elephant named Marlene from the mercy killings exacted on other animals prior to the anticipated bombings. Marlene lives in their garden, walks on leashes, and stuns neighbors until the devastating bombing of Dresden forces Lizzie, her mother, and brother on an even more surprising journey across Germany seeking safety. Morpurgo crafts a thought-provoking and perilous encounter with an enemy combatant who joins their party and eventually forges a believable romance with Lizzie. The novel's clean prose delivers a gripping and unconventional perspective on the tumultuous era. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 September

Gr 5-9--The poignant recollections of 82-year-old Lizzie capture the imaginations of her listeners, a nurse and her young son, who sit in rapt attention by her nursing-home bedside. Lizzie's engaging story is seamlessly laced with historical facts about the February 1945 bombing of Dresden, zoo directives to euthanize the animals during bombings, and the desperate plight of defeated Germans caught between advancing Russian and Allied forces. Lizzie's family included her exuberant younger brother; her compassionate mother, a zookeeper for elephants; and her absentee father, who was conscripted into the German army. When the Allied forces began the infamous firebombing of Dresden, the family and her mother's beloved elephant, Marlene, fled. Joining a wave of fellow refugees, they survived, thanks to chance encounters with a downed Allied navigator whom they secretly "adopted" as a family member, and with a countess who provided a safe house for anyone in need. After the war Lizzie's parents and Lizzie and her beloved navigator were reunited. Twenty years later, Lizzie "found" Marlene performing in a traveling French circus. The elephant had not forgotten her wartime companion. This well-paced, heartwarming narrative by a master storyteller will appeal to readers on several levels-as a tale of adventure and suspense, as a commentary on human trauma and animal welfare during war, as a perspective on the hardships facing the German people in the final months of World War II, and as a tribute to the rich memories and experiences of an older generation.--Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC

[Page 162]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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VOYA Reviews 2011 October
An Elephant is the Garden tells the story of Lizzie, a fifteen-year-old girl in Dresden, Germany, during the second World War. Lizzie's father is away fighting at the front, leaving her with her mother, a zookeeper, and her asthmatic little brother. Her mother brings home a young orphaned elephant, Marlene, determined to save her. When Dresden is heavily bombed, Lizzie's family escapes with the elephant into the countryside. A Canadian pilot leads them westward toward safety, trekking hundreds of miles in freezing weather, hungry and afraid. Throughout all of their struggles it is the elephant who anchors the story. Marlene, "our inspiration", plods on as a model of courage, patience and determination. The elephant's unconditional love for everyone she meets encourages the family to keep moving. Told through a series of first-person flashbacks, Morpurgo's understated style slowly but steadily draws the reader in. While daily hardships and the actual bombing of Dresden are recounted in some detail, the story is never harrowing. The author adeptly balances Lizzie's experiences and emotions with the factual background. Librarians and educators alike will welcome this semi-factual historical title as a valuable teaching aide on the subject of war. The story ends positively and will inspire thoughtful discussion about war's impact, as well as the accompanying themes of friendship, trust, and perseverance. Although this book may lack the "hipness" and flash of other titles for this age group, the calm, steady tone is engaging, appropriate, and will appeal to a wide range of readers.--Deborah Cooper 4Q 3P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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