Review / The Elephant Thief

20220123ma_0196Book: The Elephant Thief (2018)
Author: Jane Kerr
Genre: MG, Historical [1870s]

Opening lines from the book …
He couldn’t breathe. His lungs were pumping. His lips were open. But there still wasn’t enough air. The sack covering his head blocked everything. His nose. His eyes. His mouth. Fear burnt in his stomach, sharp and acidic.


1) I liked our introduction to Boy (later named Danny). He’s an orphan who doesn’t remember his parents, so it made sense to me that he wouldn’t necessarily have a name. (I’ll talk more about the name Danny later on.)

2) And then there’s Maharajah, the elephant! There’s something about elephants that people (read: me) love in books. And I particularly loved the connection between Boy/Danny and Maharajah.

3) Then there’s the man who buys Maharajah. He’s a very P.T. Barnum-like character… quite the showman. I wasn’t sure whether or not to like him, or trust him, all the time. But then, I noticed how he treats Danny. And even ultimately how he treats Maharajah. And then there’s his wife. I like that she’s able to temper some of the flamboyance. 

4) There’s a good antagonist in the rival zookeeper. It was nice to see the juxtoposition between the P.T. Barnum character (Mr. Jameson) and the other man (who also runs a different zoo and wanted Maharajah for himself). As the story progresses, we see that the rival doesn’t really care about the animals.

5) While this story is fiction, there is fact and history behind it! There really was an elephant named Maharajah who had to walk across the country.

6) I liked the element of therace. And especially, the mystery of who was trying to sabotage said race … It kept me reading. 🙂


The only thing I thought that could have improved this book was for narrator to keep calling the protagonist ‘Boy’ rather than ‘Danny’. At least for most of the book. The other characters could still call him ‘Danny’, but I think there should have been a moment, a big moment, when boy takes the name Danny for himself. And that should have come at the end of the book!


I enjoyed reading this book. I’d recommend for anyone who likes historical fiction, or elephants!



Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

10 thoughts on “Review / The Elephant Thief

  1. I enjoyed this one, but it’s been a tough one to get students to read. I keep hoping I’ll get students who are really into elephants, but it has yet to happen. (Walter’s Elephant Secrets and Sloan’s The Elephant in the Room were also ones I wish more students would pick up.) Thanks for the review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE elephants 🙂 On a total aside, have you read the Elephant whisperer? Highly recommend if you haven’t! This book sounds good, and though I normally don’t like unnamed protagonists, it sounds like it works for this story. I also like the historical setting! Thanks for the review!


  3. I absolutely love stories that include elephants. I’m surprised with Ms Yingling’s comments about students not being drawn to books with elephants. They are such smart animals. I would also enjoy the history in this story. Will be looking for it. Thanks for sharing!


  4. I hadn’t heard of this book, but it sounds excellent—elephants are pretty much the perfect subject for an MG book anyway, and the plot here sounds immensely compelling! Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Maria!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s