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What Elephants Know: 09/15/19

What Elephants Know

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein is set in the jungles of the Nepalese borderlands at the king's elephant stable. Nandu, a boy who was raised by wild dogs for his first two years, has spent the rest of his life working with the elephants, adopted by the head of the stables.

Now the king is thinking of closing down the stable and he and his elephants may soon be homeless. So then it becomes a race to find a way to save the elephants and the stable.

Eric Dinerstein has a long career working for and with animal welfare. He knows elephants. He knows the biodiversity of Nepal. But all that knowledge of Nepalese flora and fauna, and knowledge of the language and the people, doesn't mean that as an author he can convincingly get into the head of Nandu.

There's also, of course, an authorial insert — a white, male scientist who swoops in with the solution to everyone's problems. Instead of being a stable of elephants for royal hunting expositions, make the place a research station and conservation center!

There are two other ways this story could have been told, either of which would have had a truer, more compelling voice. First, would be to tell the tale from one of the elephants. Or it would have been more honest if it were told from the scientist's point of view.

There's a sequel, A Circle of Elephants (2019).

Two stars

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