If you need to explain determination to a young child look no further than Tua and the elephant. This is very special little novel which will introduce younger readers to Tua who is determined to protect her new friend - a baby elephant. This book will also give you a very authentic insight into the culture of Thailand - the sights, sounds and smells.
Tua means peanut but Tua is not a peanut she is a brave little girl who shows enormous courage when she sees a small elephant is being very badly mistreated by some opportunistic thieves. "These two ... were scruffy as sewer rats, beady eyed and sharp of tooth. Whiskers grew in sparse patches on their cheeks and chins like mildew. They were both shifty, but one was long and lean, and the other was squat and pudgy."
Woven into this story are many Thai words but these are not hard to work out from the context. There is a glossary but I rarely referred to it.
Tua rescues the elephant whom she names Pohn Pohn which means double happiness. The difficulty is how do you hide an elephant especially when the aforementioned bad guys what this prize possession back. Tua must use all her courage, commonsense and initiative to take Pohn Pohn on the long journey to an elephant refuge where she knows she will be safe.
Tua and the elephant is a fairly short novel at just 200 pages but there are moments when I simply gasped out loud hoping Tua could escape the two crazy elephant thieves. In one scene near the end of the book Tua herself is tied up in the hammock where she is sleeping and kidnapped. This time it is Pohn Pohn who comes to her rescue.
I will admit I might have walked past this little book in the shop if my friend and fellow Teacher-Librarian had not recommended it. Another reason why it is fun to shop for books with a friend. Here is a set of very comprehensive teaching notes and here is a set of web links to extend your study of the setting and culture of Thailand. Take a minute to watch this video trailer where you can see some of the illustrations from this book.
If you enjoy Tua and the Elephants I recommend you also look for Silk Umbrellas by Carolyn Marsden.
The plot unfolds quickly and involves a kitchen sink of obstacles and allies: a Chevy Chase-style scene in a vegetable market, a treacherous river crossing, delightful teenage monks, an elephant-kidnapping, ransom negotiations, and high- (and low-) speed chases as the devious mahouts search for Tua and the elephant.