Follow the Elephant
Ronsdale Press, 2010 IBSN 978-1-55380-098-9, pp
Thirteen year old Ben is angry and
isolated after his father dies of lung cancer, and his mother
worries that Ben is withdrawing from the family by wasting his
time with computer games and skipping school to hang out in video
Ben's grandmother invites him on
a seventeen day trip to India to look for her childhood pen pal.
Ben always thought he'd like to travel one day, though never with
his grandmother, but the ticket is already bought and immunization
shots are booked.
In a search that starts in the long lines of a Delhi registry
office, Ben and Gran travel across the huge sub-continent by plane,
bus, train, taxi, boat, rickshaw and horse-drawn tonga. Along
the way Ben is strangely compelled to be near the magnificant
live elephants and the Hindu elephant boy-god, Ganesh.
Here is a carving of Ganesh
Following one clue after another in a giant game of Snakes and
Ladders, Ben sees magicians swallowing knives, cobras being milked
for venom and bodies being burned on funeral pyres. Through insufferable
heat, strange food and the constant haggling of street beggars,
Ben is increasingly irritated by his grandmother's attempts to
control him. He disobeys her and becomes lost in the dark labyrinth
of a Hindu temple where he stumbles onto a statue of Ganesh.
"Ben looked into the almost human eyes of the elephant. And then
it happened. In the dim light, the elephant's trunk swayed, lifted and
dipped…..dipped away from the passage Ben had been following toward
a smaller dark opening he hadn't noticed."
Their journey continues to the Bay
of Bengal where Ben meets Rani, a beautiful Hindu girl, who talks
to him about her belief in reincarnation, forcing Ben to think
about death. Gram develops food poisoning and in saving her life,
Ben comes across a last clue and uses his computer skills to lead
to a joyful reunion of the grandmothers.
The challenges of the difficult journey
teach Ben to value the computer as a tool rather than an escape
and to come to terms with his father's death.
Follow the Elephant has now been published
"A richly colourful,
adventure-packed novel that keeps you turning page after page, while
the sights, sounds and flavours of India permeate the senses."
Pamela Porter, Governor General's award
winner for The Crazy Man
"This book was
a page-turner! I just couldn't put it down. It is a good story that
can touch your heart. I should like to give Follow the Elephant
five stars out of five!!"
Online review. Jenny, age 12
"I started reading Follow the Elephant yesterday and
finished it just moments ago. I had difficulty putting it down.
An excellent read it made me laugh and cry, all signs of
a good book. The topic of death and how one deals with it is an important
one for children. The references to religions and Indian culture
make a good connection to the World Religions study in Grade Eight.
As a teacher I see many uses for this book in the school curriculum."
Velma Moore, Teacher, Surrey, B.C.
book will make you:
beg your parents for a pet elephant and
Disneyland off your list of places to go and add India".
Zac, age 12
delivers the culture clash between east and west with panache and
humour. She has a well developed sense of the absurd. This is a
very good story - a seat of the pants adventure waltzing across
the great Indian sub-continent. Any reader of any age would yearn
to go to India and experience it all."
"Follow the Elephant
is a well-written novel that is rich in cultural, historical and
geographical detail. The rich description and well-paced character
development are definite strengths. Young has expertly woven historical
and cultural facts about India in with the prose of the novel, making
this story one that will not only entertain readers, but teach them
as well. Young's superb description will make India very real in
the (reader's ) minds."
Starred review. Canadian
Materials, Vol. 16 Number 31, 2010
the Chocolate Lily award for the best B.C. novel in 2011-12
My Silver Moonbeam medal
the Elephant is shortlisted for the 2012 Rocky Mountain
the Elephant received the U.S. Silver Moonbeam medal (2010)
for pre-teen fiction.
nominated for Book of
the Year 2011-2012 by the Surrey school board.
of the Year's Best Books by Resource Links, 2010
and named "an exceptional book" by the National Chapter of the IODE
Violet Downey Book Awards, 2010