Book review

Elephant Ben by Geoffrey Malone (2000)

An elephant never forgets - and that is what this story is about. It is a very enjoyable real life, animal adventure story set somewhere in the African bush. Ben and his gamewarden father, David, set off together on a short safari during the school holidays. Ben is thrilled to be off on such an adventure and is delighted to spot a family group of elephants as they approach a swamp area. But his pleasure soon turns to distress when he sees that a baby elephant is stuck in the mud and drowning. A mother elephant is making desperate attempts to save her calf. Ben and David make a supreme effort and manage to reach the calf by floating Ben on the surface of the mud on the canvas of their tent. Ben has to immerse himself head and shoulders in the mud to tie a rope round the calf's leg before they can both be winched to safety. The rescue completed the quaking humans are approached by the grateful mother:

As they drove past the elephants, Temba broke away and came towards them. David looked puzzled and slowed the vehicle down to walking pace. 'Just sit quite still,' he cautioned. 'I'm not sure what she wants but she looks quiet enough.'
Temba came very close. She stopped a couple of metres in front of the Land-rover. Ben looked up into her eyes. They were light brown in colour. They held his. He knew she was looking directly at him. It was an extraordinary sensation.
She came a step closer, towering over them. He heard his father gasp. Her tusks were near enough to touch. Ben kept perfectly still as the tip of Temba's huge trunk reached towards him. It stopped centimetres from the boy's face.
There was wonder in David's voice. 'She's come to say thank you!' He swallowed with emotion. 'She's memorising our scent. Seeing what we look like. She won't forget either of us. You can be sure of that.

And it is lucky for Ben and David that Temba doesn't forget them because they run into some poachers who don't care how many lives they have to take in their greed for ivory.

If you read this book I'm sure you will enjoy seeing how Temba comes to the rescue of Ben and David and wreaks her revenge on the poachers. I know it isn't every day that elephant and man can come to such a splendid understanding but I was impressed by the splashes of realism in this book. I do know about getting Land Rovers ready for long journeys across the desert and I liked the business of checking the winch, filling the plastic water carriers and ensuring the supply of water sterilization tablets. I also enjoyed the way Geoffrey Malone conveys the mixture of awe and fear and delight at the animal encounters. And what fantastic creatures elephants are. I must admit I had a quick look at the Dorling Kindersley Eye Witness Guide Elephant after reading this book.

What can I read next?

Geoffrey Malone has written other books too:

  • Brunner
  • Torn Ear
  • Kimba

For a similar kind of animal adventure, you could try this one by Eric Campbell:

Nothing to do with animals, but for a great adventure story you might like to look at this one by Martin Booth:

Again, no animals, but a real adventure, try this one by Michael Morpurgo:

I think you might really enjoy this one by Louis Sachar:

Or you could look at this one by Nina Bawden:

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