Monday, October 26, 2009
When I came home one day last week, I was greeted with a package at my door. Inside the package was this book, Travels with Tara, signed by the author, which I won in a giveaway from Natasha @ Maw Books. Thanks Natasha, and thanks to Sarah at Tilbury House Publishers! I promptly read the book, in its entirety, to my kids at breakfast the next morning.
I have an affinity for all animals. And not just the cute furry kind - I love all of God's creatures (except for cockroaches). I even went through a stage in my younger years where I was obsessed with camels. So when I read Natasha's review of this book about Tarra the elephant, my heart melted into a puddle.
Tarra is an Asian elephant who was captured from her home in Burma as a baby in 1974, and sold via an animal broker to a tire store owner in the US. She was going to be the store's mascot. The author, Carol Buckley, happened to see the elephant on one of her daily walks around town, and introduced herself to its owner. Carol was in college at the time, studying about the care of exotic animals, so this was a dream come true. Carol soon took over the elephant's care, named her Tarra, and began to train her. They formed a very close bond.
Eventually, Carol purchased Tarra from her original owner, and began to travel with her to zoos, circuses and other events. Tarra was a spirited, playful, and intelligent animal. She played the xylophone, the harmonica, and even learned how to ride roller skates! Tarra also loved other animals. She especially would gravitate towards dogs, and the dolphins whenever they were at a zoo.
Carol attempted to find Tarra a zoo where she could live and be with other elephants and possibly find a mate, but nothing worked out to Carol's satisfaction. The other elephants would pick on her. In partnership with another gentleman, they were able to purchase 800 acres in Tennessee, and established an elephant sanctuary, which is where Tarra lives today. She was soon joined by other homeless elephants, who began to form a family.
This book is nothing short of precious. There are large, black and white pictures of Tarra on each page...Tarra playing in the water, Tarra holding her harmonica, and my favorite, Tarra on roller skates. My kids, aged 10 and 11, who usually think they are way too cool for a picture book, were entranced. At some point, they had stopped eating their breakfast and were listening to the story with rapt attention (making us late for school!). The prose is gentle and simple enough for even kids of much younger ages. In fact, I'm going to bring the book to the kids' school library so it can be shared with all of the children.
Carol Buckley has also written other books about Tarra. "Tarra and Bella" is about the elephant's special friendship with a dog, and her latest, "Just for Elephants", about the sanctuary. I'll leave you with a video of Tarra and her BFF Bella: