Adventure, subterfuge, arson, exotic creatures! All on tap today…
Elephant Thief, by Jane Kerr
first published in the UK in 2017; first US edition 2018 by Scholastic
With elements ranging from a Fagin-esque band of child thieves to a Jules Verne-like race against time, Elephant Thief packs a mammoth amount of dangers, thrills, and plot twists into its pages.
The story is based on a real elephant, Maharajah, whose skeleton is on display in the Manchester Museum.
Kerr’s story also introduces us to a fictional boy named Danny, a street urchin caught up in a cruel, petty thief ring in Edinburgh. Through happenstance, Danny escapes the thieving network and is recruited by Mr. Jameson, owner of an exotic zoo in Manchester. Danny is hired to pose as a young Indian prince, Prince Dandip, riding Jameson’s new purchase, the elephant Maharajah, in a 200-mile race-against-the-clock. It’s a publicity stunt, and Jameson has made a high-stakes wager with a flamboyant rival that makes this race one of utmost importance to win!
Along the tumultuous journey, Danny comes to have a tender affection for Maharajah. That’s a sweet connection for a boy previously accustomed to only abuse. Their friendship is all the more precious as Danny’s loyalty, courage, and shrewdness are put to the test. The two of them must persevere through a host of obstacles and life-threatening dangers from some shadowy persons who seek to prevent Jameson’s success.
With both Danny’s and Maharajah’s lives on the line, can they squeak out a victory? It’s quite a wild ride, with a unique, historically-based plot and vivid characters. Ages 9 and up.
Find more adventure stories for middle-grade readers at this link.