Thunder: An Elephant’s Journey
Although the characters within this novel are animals young teens and middle school children can learn many lessons. When a young elephant is born into a tribe and the celebrations have been completed the mother is responsible to teach the child survival skills. As the mother rejoices and names her new born child Thunder she begins teaching him as other mothers do how to communicate with his tribe, how to understand danger and what happens when you find yourself in trouble. Thunder is smart and enjoys playing with the other elephants in his tribe especially Serenity. As he grows and the others do too they develop a daily routine, learn how to swim, play and enjoy the forest but also learn the dangers of what happens when some do not value the lives of these animals and use it for ill gotten gains.
When a bounty hunter sees Thunder and several other elephants he sets his site on him hoping to sell him to the highest bidder but not before he seeks them out, watches them closely and eventually captures and kills some of these precious and endangered animals. Along comes a special friend as Thunder realizes that he has lost his way when all of a sudden he tries to communicate with his tribe and no one answers. Captured and enclosed as if in a prison cell he becomes afraid yet drugged and tired as does his new friend Penelope the Parrot who provides laughter, humor and ribbing within the short time we get to know her before things begin to change. But, somehow the truck falters and he and Penelope are freed but how is he going to find his heard and return to the safety and warmth of his mother? From the moment you enter his world, see the amazing illustrations that bring the story to light you fall in love with Thunder and all of the interesting and unusual friends he makes along the way.
Soma the brazen and absolutely enchanting Rhino, the three egrets, the bats who provide an illuminating look at the world from a different view, Thunder who is learning the true meaning of friendship, understanding, loyalty and faith from a group of animals who are so diverse and different and who are looking out for each other in a special and rare way until the poachers try and take back what they lost. Will they recapture Thunder and Penelope? Will they go after the rest of the animals that are with them?
Meet Haru the bat, Riley the Rhino, Leopold the Leopard and so many animals that will help teach Thunder about the dangers of man and why the balance of the earth and the world was changed. As Riley explains that man is out to destroy the animals, take away their homes he does not quite understand at first but when they start to travel to a village, see the huge herd of elephants stampeding and destroy the land, the property and the landscape things start to frighten him as he thinks its his herd that is disappearing once again. Drago is not far behind as he delivers a message about a huge herd delivery to his boss, receives quite a bit of cash but what happens next allows readers younger and older to know that sometimes someone does things for greed and power while another named Mosi takes matters into his own hands thinking it will solve his problems and help him get money to feed his family. Although he is not for killing the animals or hunting them down something in him snaps and listening to Drago brag about what money can buy what will he do when he takes up the gun Drago was holding and rides off with it with a new purpose in mind?
When Drago recaptures Penelope and Thunder is in danger, with Soma tied up what happens next is right out of a movie with the egrets poking at Drago and making sure that he does not kill anyone one of them but not everyone will survive. But, something would change it all as a group of elder elephants find Thunder and want him to follow them home but not before we meet another of my favorite characters Fredrick the Flamingo who is fashion oriented, makeup savvy and definitely quite flamboyant as he tries to remake Thunder and the others in order to hide them from the uprights. But, his plan at first backfires but I bet you will never guess what he does with spandex yoga pants, an elephant and a Rhino to get to the other side. Drago was hacking away with his blades and definitely would not give up until he get Thunder in his clutches. Watch how they all play in the water, Thunder thinking about his journey and thinking about the uprights or us humans with their weapons and hearing the thunder like sound in the forest making him wonder if his name was as destructive as the fire that burst from the guns that looked like lightning in a darkened sky.
Close your eyes and picture hippo dancing, a long-tailed pangolin shaking ha long stick next to an egret with his body covered in small scales. Thunder could feel the music all over him and then watching the hippos circle him must have been quite a sight as Persius, Cedric and Sydney wondered and were in awe. Soma was a great character who loved Thunder and as Riley on page 93 explains the Great Spirit and how man became possessed or obsessed with material things. Will man ever walk with animals or beasts again? Will they continue to hunt endangered animals?
While the Flamingo wanted to see how her pupils fared Soma and Thunder out of breath eating red berries would hope to finally find their way to safety but not before Penelope is taken again. Wondering where she is they cannot imagine that she just left but they never realized she was being held captive again by Drago. The heard once again disappeared, the egrets, Soma and the others would support Thunder but he wanted to find Penelope. When a little girl is in danger for wandering away from her family and home will Thunder risk it all and the hunter’s gun to save this child, prove that the animals will not hurt any uprights or anyone else and help to create harmony in the rainforest? As the others tell him to leave, find his herd and not to risk it all, he along with Soma who is now tangled and needs to be free hope to save Imani before Mosi, her father pulls the trigger. The raging water, the current and three amazing elephants and one Thunder and you won’t believe what happens and you won’t believe what Mosi does that will startle and surprise readers with a twist you won’t expect.
When the final outcome arrives one member of the team will not survive while the others will have to decide where home is and with who. Will Thunder find his herd? When he arrives back where they were before what he sees is totally devastation, homes Will he find Serenity his mother? Will he remain with the other elephants? Meet fashion flamboyant Frederick, adorable a lovable Persius, Cedric and Sydney plus the sweet and loyal Penelope and enter the rainforest, take the journey along with them and our Thunder and find out if the earth will ever move again. If the sound of his feet moving to hope to communicate with his tribe will ever be answered again and will the uprights ever learn to live in peace and harmony so the with the animals so that the Great Spirit will shine down on all of us and them? Open your eyes and look at the view of the rainforest and hear the birds chirping, the two gorillas Harold and Neville observing the action from a hilltop and listen carefully when the sounds stop, the air is still and the only sound you hope to hear is that of Thunder. Authors Erik Daniel Shein and L.M. Reker provide many lessons for both adults and young children to learn with issues of understanding, the environment, the need to protect endangered animals, friendships, understanding differences, learning about other animals and their survival skills and hoping that Thunder and his friends can teach us Uprights that everyone needs to find their own place of safety on earth and we need to share it as one in peace.
The illustrations are amazing as you get to meet, Thunder, the egrets, Soma and of course our Flamingo in black and white and hopefully they will have more adventures in the future. Added at the end the authors add in Appendix I which enlightens readers to the threat to the elephant population and Appendix II which focuses on organizations that are working to protect and support the elephant and other endangered animals that need protection within Sanctuaries and more. This is a great book that can foster research by older children into endangered animals and other species and looking into each of the organizations listed hoping to learn more.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine
Let’s give this book: FIVE GOLDEN STARS