Review Blog

Jan 22 2019

The elephant ride by Kate Bettison

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CreateSpace, 2018. ISBN 9781984930217.
(Age: 13+) Highly recommended. Darcy's family are having a relaxing beachside holiday in Thailand when Darcy finally gets her wish granted - to go on an elephant trek in the jungle. It is all very exciting until the elephant, Dao, sends her tossing headfirst to the ground. Her family are convinced the elephant was dangerous and shouldn't have been on the trek, but Darcy knows it was something else. She saw the look in the elephant's eye . . .
Recovering afterwards with a bandaged wrist and a scarred face, Darcy finds herself alone in her determination to find out what happened, and why the elephant threw her. Her family doesn't understand and even her best friend seems to have deserted her. But Darcy persists and her research leads her to find out more about elephants and the tourist industry.
The story is written in Darcy's voice, and gradually we come to understand why she feels on the outer, with her family, her friends, and at school. She wants to be taken seriously but she struggles with self-image and lacks the confidence she needs to put her viewpoint - until she starts to find support in unexpected places.
One of the nice things about this book is that the characters aren't stereotypes. Bettison portrays the ups and downs of friendships and sibling relationships in a realistic way. Even the mean 'popular girl' is recognised for what she can contribute to Dao's cause. And Darcy learns that the issues in the Thai tourist industry are more complex than she at first thought.
I put the suggested reading age at 13+ because although Darcy is a 15 year old, it is a very accessible easy-to-read book, and the issues of identity, self-esteem and self-empowerment are relevant to the younger teenager. The book also presents the issues of ethical treatment of animals, tourism and poverty in a way that all readers can understand.
It is worth noting that the book is dedicated to Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary and part proceeds from book sales go to support their work. And an author's note at the end reveals the inspiration for the story of Dao.
Helen Eddy

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