Monday, January 14, 2013

MG Book Review: Tua and the Elephant, by R.P. Harris

General Information
Publisher:  Chronicle Books
Year of publication: 2012
# of chapters: 29
# of pages: 202
Genre: Contemporary
Website: Chronicle Books

Plot summary (from Chronicle Books): 
Ten-year-old Tua—Thai for “peanut”—has everything she needs at home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, except for one thing she’s always wanted: a sister. In the market one day, Tua makes an accidental acquaintance—one with wise, loving eyes, remarkable strength, and a very curious trunk. And when Tua meets Pohn-Pohn, it’s clear this elephant needs her help. Together, the unusual team sets off on a remarkable journey to escape from Pohn-Pohn’s vile captors. From the bustling night market to the hallowed halls of a Buddhist temple and finally, to the sanctuary of an elephant refuge, this clever girl and her beloved companion find that right under their noses is exactly what each has been searching for: a friend.

Positive Points
The characters and settings are original. The story is about a ten-year-old Thai girl who adopts a baby elephant. I don't know any other MG novel about elephants or set in Thailand. This is a big plus for me. I love reading about settings I'm not familiar with. This book taught me many things I didn't know about elephants in Thailand.

Negative Points
I'm not a big fan of omniscient POV. Most recent novels have limited POVs.  There was a lot of "head hopping" in this book, which I consider as poor writing.

This book contains many Thai words I couldn't understand, which I found very irritating. Using a few foreign expressions is okay, when their meanings are made clear and if there is a purpose for them. This book had too many, and often the meaning wasn't clear. I could kind of understand based on the context, but it bothered me.

I found grammar errors, which surprised me, since this book was published by Chronicle Books. For example, the author occasionally uses action tags as dialogue tags: "Sound as a cork," the man beamed. Beamed is not a manner of speech, so it cannot be used as a dialogue tag.

What makes this book unique
I learned a thing or two about Thailand, and having an elephant as a pet is unusual. Makes a change from puppies!

Overall Impression
I had the impression that this book was written more to sensitize the reader to the situation of elephants in Thailand than to tell a great story. Maybe it's just me. I've read great reviews about this book. I didn't particularly like it, for all the reasons cited above. I did learn something about elephants, so I'm still happy to have read it.

My Rating:

Thinking of purchasing this book? I'll make it easy for you:


Tonja Drecker said...

It's nice to see a MG book based in Thailand, and I bet kids would be interested in the language too... if the translations were in there as well.

Barbara Watson said...

Interesting. I've heard good things about this one, but I enjoyed your negative points.

DMS said...

I haven't heard of this one- but it sounds like it has some good things going for it. I like the setting and the part where the MC adopts and elephant. How fun! I really enjoyed your honest review. :)

Unknown said...

Sometimes I think that editors are getting lazy. It sure seems to be the case with this book. Very perceptive and fair review, Annie! :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one, Annie. It is one I did quite enjoy, head hopping including as I felt it added to the tension and fun of the story because you could see the big picture especially when those crazy villains are chasing Tua and her elephant. So true on the author giving a wonderful sense of Thailand and the culture. Have to say the Aunt was one of my favorite characters. Agreed on the fair and honest review!

Anonymous said...

I'm always interested in how books that are heavy with cultural content and not set in the USA are received by American readers (since I write kind of like that).
I'm curious about the head hopping. I remember giving up on a MG because of that in the past. I still have plans of going back to read it but back then I just couldn't stand it.
As usual I enjoyed your fair review. I'm adding this to my list.


Annie McMahon said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone! Yes, Deb, the aunt was definitely something else! She made me laugh. And Akoss, now I'm curious about your book. I love books set in different countries when it's well done. It's like travelling to exotic places for free! :)

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