Elephants and Rhinos and Tigers Oh My!

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In A Circle of Elephants by Dr. Eric Dinerstein, Ph.D., thirteen year old elephant driver Nandu lives in the newly established Royal Elephant Breeding Center in Nepal with his adopted father, Subba-Sahib; his elephant, Hira Prashad; his mentor, Father Autry; and his friends, Dilly, Rita, and Indra. His life is very peaceful until he finds out that nothing is ever as it seems.

Nandu lives next to the borderlands jungle and watches over the king’s elephants with his father, mentor, and friends. His peaceful world gets thrown into turmoil as poachers and other elephant herds threaten the Royal Elephant Breeding Center. The seemingly invincible Pradhan, the king of Nepalese rhinoceri, is murdered by poachers who steal his horn to sell it on the black market. Nandu and his friends soon discover they might be up against more than they think.

The details in A Circle of Elephants are so precise that you can almost feel yourself walking with Nandu throughout the whole book. For example, Dinerstein tells you what city names mean; for instance, Bichia means “scorpions” in Nepali.  To figure out where they are going, the map at the beginning and back of the book is also useful for the reader when Nandu travels outside of the elephant stable.

Some people might think about poaching like this: “It is not relevant to my everyday life,” or “animals die all the time, what’s the difference?” This book helps counter that attitude towards poaching by putting it in the perspective of someone who has lived with these animals his whole life and is now seeing them murdered in cold blood. In Dinerstein’s novel, Nandu’s anger and heartbreak puts a personal side to the impact of poaching, which some people might dismiss as unimportant.

A Circle of Elephants is a hopeful story of courage and perseverance. It will make you think about ways to help the great elephants, rhinos, and tigers of Nepal, and other endangered species around the world. All in all, I give the book a five out of five stars and recommend it for 8 years old and up.