|Elephant in the room|
Author: Sloan, Holly Goldberg
Missing her mother who has returned to Turkey to resolve an immigration problem, sixth-grader Sila welcomes a very large distraction in her life when she helps a surprising new friend rescue a circus elephant.
Kirkus Reviews (02/01/21)
School Library Journal (+) (03/01/21)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 01/01/2021 Since her mother returned to Turkey to rectify an immigration problem, life has been difficult for American-born Sila Tekin. Sila and her father meet and quickly bond with Gio, an elderly widower and recent lottery winner living on a nearby farm. Sila’s relationship with the old man strengthens after Gio purchases Veda, an elephant from a disbanded circus, and a pat of flamingos to keep the pachyderm company. Throughout the summer, Sila and her friend Mateo bike to the farm daily to help care for the animals, and in the process, both children are distracted from their own problems. Sloan's strength is her attention to character development and the empathy for animals (particularly those held captive) that she imbues. Using multiple narrative perspectives, she touches on many weighty topics (grief, autism, deportation, animal cruelty), handling each with sensitivity. Although the ending feels overly rosy, the upbeat ending is sure to please, especially younger readers. - Copyright 2021 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 03/01/2021 Gr 4–8—Sila Tekin lives in Oregon's Willamette Valley with her parents, who immigrated from Turkey 14 years ago, but a problem with her mother's paperwork means she has to return to Turkey to sort it out. What was supposed to be an eight-day trip stretches into months, and Sila misses her mother desperately. Two chance meetings provide the only thing big enough to take her mind off missing her mother: an elephant named Veda, purchased by an elderly lottery winner Sila met when her auto mechanic dad helped fix his truck. Gio Gardino—coincidentally, the widower of Sila's beloved second grade teacher—is perfectly positioned to set up an elephant sanctuary, and Sila convinces her dad to let her work there over the summer. Sila includes her autistic school friend Mateo Lopez in her plan, and his mother, a Mexican American lawyer, later proves helpful to the Tekin family. Sila is at the heart of the story, told in close third person, but narration shifts in some sections to focus on Gio and Mateo and even, briefly, Veda. Each character wrestles with love and loss and struggles with decisions about when to act and when to wait; each in their own way has insight into the others, and empathy for them. VERDICT Sila wonders if people are more compassionate because of their own difficult experiences; in this unique, touching book, the answer is yes. Recommended for all collections.—Jenny Arch, formerly at Winchester P.L., MA - Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.