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April 26, 2011 > Footnotes: April Book Reviews

Footnotes: April Book Reviews

For first grade and up (really for almost all ages!):
Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends by Carol Buckley

Carol worked with Tarra while she was a performing elephant who worked for television, motion pictures and circus shows. When it was time to retire Tarra, Carol and her partner Scott Blais decided to found the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, buying 220 acres of wooded land with streams and ponds to roam. As more and more elephants came to live with Tarra, the new residents paired up in little all female mini-herds. Everyone but the original tenant Terra had a friend to hang out with, but Tarra was alone until she came upon Bella.

Bella was a mutt, a mixed breed stray who wandered onto the Sanctuary grounds. Most of the time elephants don't like dogs underfoot, probably a leftover from their ancestors. But Tarra and Bella bonded, and were soon strolling the acres together, swimming, playing, and sharing meals as best friends. One day Tarra and Bella did not show up for their dinner, and when the caretakers located the pair they discovered that Bella had suffered a serious injury to her spine. She could not walk or even wag her tail! Taking Bella to the on-site hospital, they left Tarra waiting for her friend. Two days later Tarra came straight to the hospital to visit her hurt pal.

Would Bella ever be able to run and play with Tarra again? The photos are charming, and the fact that the story is true makes it even more poignant. If you are a fan of Nubs (by Major Brian Dennis) or Owen and Mzee (by Isabella Hatkoff), you'll be sure to enjoy this book! (Putnam hardback, $16.99)

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Another for almost all ages:
Just for Elephants by Carol Buckley.

This is another story from the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee; this time about a former circus and zoo elephant named Shirley. Shirley worked in the circus for 30 years, then sold to a zoo where she lived for 22 years. Crippled by a badly healed broken back leg, Shirley finally retired at the Elephant Sanctuary.

When brought to the Sanctuary, Shirley was put in the barn. It was a very large facility, with a strong gate to separate new arrivals from residents coming to investigate. When Jenny, a Sumatran elephant, came in to meet the newest member, she became very agitated. She not only reached for Shirley, she trumpeted and became frantic to reach her... Shirley was doing the same!

What could cause these normally level-headed elephants to react so strongly to each other? The answer lies in an event over 20 years in the past.

This is a wonderful story of the power of love of two strong individuals who have survived much to be reunited. Beautiful pictures accompany the story - great for all animal lovers. (Tilbury hardback, $16.95)

And if you and your child would like to know more about elephants, there is a wonderful book called Eyewitness: Elephant, by Ian Redmond with lots of pictures and fascinating information to satisfy your curiosity.

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For third grade and up:
Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings.

Rufus badly wants a dog. He has pleaded, he has begged, he has made lists, he's tried everything. His father is dead set against having a dog, and in fact produces a multi-page list why getting a dog is a terrible idea (They shed, they poop, they need to be walked, they chew on things... you get the idea.) In an effort to help, Rufus' mom goes to a mysterious pet store (it disappears soon afterward) and buys a guinea pig, a female guinea pig! This is so far from what Rufus was hoping for that he hates the little rodent on sight.

At his mother's insistence, Rufus names the critter "Fido" and promptly decides to have nothing to do with the little fuzzball. Fido has other ideas, however. She manages to sneak into his backpack when Rufus isn't looking, and takes a ride to his school, spotted by enemies and friends alike. As if that wasn't bad enough, Fido squeals the entire time that Rufus is gone, upsetting his work-at-home father.

Fido, however, has tricks up her sleeve that take Rufus by surprise; she's going to try to become the coolest pet ever. She has a long way to go - what could a guinea pig possibly do that would redeem her to a dog-craving boy and his dog-hating father? (Egmont paperback, $6.99)

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For sixth grade and up:
Vampire's Photograph by Kevin Emerson (the first volume in the Oliver Nocturne series)

Oliver is your typical middle school geeky kid. He has hardly any friends, is bullied by his older brother, and feels like a square peg in a round world. Oh - and he's a juvenile vampire. Most vampires are turned when bitten and a demon moves into their bodies. Oliver hasn't had that experience yet - any day now he should hear from a demon that has chosen him and his life will get better... supposedly. He's not, however, convinced that anything will improve his life.

One night he discovers a human in the house that serves as a disguise for his family's underground home. What is she doing there? When he investigates, the girl has the nerve to take his picture and wants to use it as proof that vampires are real! This is very bad - vampires do not want to be discovered. What will happen to Oliver when his parents find out? Can he stop the girl from carrying out her plan? Will she understand that printing the photo could be fatal?

I've read all five Oliver Nocturne books and these aren't your typical angst/romance novels. They are all suspenseful page-turners. - enjoy! (Scholastic paperback, $5.99)

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For junior high school and up:
Human 4, by Mike Lancaster

This one grabbed me from the first chapter and just wouldn't let go! It begins as a simple story: Kyle agrees to be hypnotized for his friend Danny's talent show act. He's a little fearful that Danny will make him cluck like a chicken or something, but he decides it'll be okay; Danny will be happy. There are three others who are also hypnotized at the same time. When they wake up, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. No one in the audience is moving. They are frozen in place.

At first Kyle thinks it's a big joke, but when the minutes continue to tick by, his concerns become more serious. He and the others leave the auditorium to get help, only to find the entire town frozen in place as well. The phones won't work. The television is just static. It's as if the entire world has stopped, leaving the four of them unaffected. Eventually, however, people start moving again. Kyle will get his family back, and be able to tell them what happened. But, that's when things get much, much worse. (Egmont hardback, $16.99)

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For young adults:
Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Her name isn't Mercy. Well, she's not really sure what it is so the name Mercy is the one she adopts. She has been transferred into so many different lives, so many different bodies; when she closes her eyes to rest and wakes up, Mercy finds herself in the middle of someone else's reality!

This time Mercy wakes up in the back of a school bus taking a group of high-school students to sing a choral arrangement. Everyone is staying in a different home and Mercy winds up at Ryan's. He and his parents are still mourning the loss of Ryan's twin sister, Lauren, who disappeared two years ago. Ryan is still convinced that Lauren is alive, which makes Mercy's life really uncomfortable; she is staying in the missing girl's bedroom.

To make things worse, Mercy's dream companion, her only consistent friend through her lives, cautions her to leave Ryan and his problems alone. Meantime she has just discovered that not only is she in the choir, she's the lead soloist. Why are her instincts supporting Ryan's belief? Can she help him? Would her dream companion lie to her? A fascinating read that braids suspense, mystery and fantasy together into a great story. (Hyperion hardback, $16.99)

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