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When Anju Loved Being an Elephant Review by Susan K. Marlow

By Wendy Henrichs; illustrated by John Butler
Sleeping Bear Press
310 North Main St., Ste 300
Chelsea, MI 48118

Sleeping Bear Press consistently publishes high-quality books. All of their large, hardcover, library-bound books are beautifully put together, with full-color illustrations in a variety of mediums and charming text in their 32 pages. When Anju Enjoyed Being an Elephant is another lovely addition to their line-up.

Anju, a young elephant, loves her life on the island of Sumatra. However, when she is only five years old, she is stolen and sold to a circus in America, where she spends the next 39 years. After that experience, Anju lives another 15 years as a lonely elephant in a small zoo. Then one day, Anju's mahout, an elephant caretaker, asks this elderly elephant to take one more journey. As they travel miles and miles to her final destination (a beautiful elephant sanctuary with plenty of other elephants for company), Anju reflects on her circus days and her zoo days. But mostly she remembers how much she loved being an elephant in Indonesia before her captivity.

With soft colors and realistic paintings, this book brings Anju to life. I read this book to my grandchildren, and even the youngest child stayed engaged. It is not fast-paced, but it helps young readers connect with Anju and captive elephants around the world. Three pages at end of the book give readers "Elephant Facts" and ways we can help elephants. I learned some things I didn't know before about elephants! They communicate by infrasound, a rumbling which is too low in frequency for human ears to pick up. This is just one example of the interesting facts you can weave into your studies and use to spark further interest.

An added bonus--and one of the reasons I love Sleeping Bear books--is the free pdf file available on their website:

The guide is full of learning activities that reinforce the story concept--math, language arts, graphing story events, and thinking skills. A parent can get a lot of mileage from one book this way. I appreciate the extra effort the publisher has gone to in order to make these activities available to teachers and homeschooling parents.

Product review by Susan K. Marlow, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October 2011