An Elephant in the Garden
Inspired by historical events, this story is narrated by Lizzie, a solitary, elderly woman in a nursing home telling the story of her youth in Dresden, Germany to one of the nurses and the nurse’s young son. Lizzie’s mother (Mutti) was a zookeeper in Dresden during WWII. All zookeepers in Germany were told that if the allied bombers came they were to shoot all of the large animals so they wouldn’t escape and run wild. Mutti couldn’t bear to shoot Marlene, a young, orphaned elephant she had known since she witnessed the elephant’s birth 5 years previous, so she persuaded the zoo director to let her keep Marlene in her backyard garden each night.
Dresden is bombed, and the family, along with Marlene is forced to escape the city along with thousands of other refugees, hoping to meet up with the allied forces and also hoping to avoid the approaching Russian forces. On their laborious journey they then find a Canadian pilot whose plane has crashed; this is where the book gets good.
A quick read, with well-drawn out characters and a heartwarming story of friendship and courage highlight this book. Because it doesn’t dwell on the horrors of the war, I recommend it for ages 9-14.