Akimbo and the Elephants (Akimbo Series)

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Ten-year-old Akimbo lives on a game preserve in Africa. His father is the head ranger, and Akimbo is eager to help him whenever he can—even if it means getting into some pretty dangerous situations.

In Akimbo and the Elephants, ivory poachers are killing grown elephants for their tusks and leaving the calves to die. When the authorities fail to turn up new leads, Akimbo sets out to save the elephants by posing as a hunter himself.

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Ten-year-old Akimbo lives on a game preserve in Africa. His father is the head ranger, and Akimbo is eager to help him whenever he can—even if it means getting into some pretty dangerous situations.

In Akimbo and the Elephants, ivory poachers are killing grown elephants for their tusks and leaving the calves to die. When the authorities fail to turn up new leads, Akimbo sets out to save the elephants by posing as a hunter himself.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Poachers are killing grown elephants, stealing their tusks, and then abandoning the calves to certain death. Determined to stop this deadly practice, young Akimbo poses as a hunter to uncover the culprits. Another engaging tale of African adventure by famed novelist Alexander McCall Smith.
Publishers Weekly
This fast-paced tale launches Smith's (the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency mysteries) paper-over-board series starring Akimbo, who lives on the edge of an African game reserve. The lad is horrified when he and his ranger father come across a dead elephant, the victim of a gang of poachers who have killed it for its tusks. The boy surreptitiously takes a tusk from his father's storeroom as bait and promises to lead a poacher to a stash of another gang's booty if the man will teach him how they kill their prey. The narrative at times errs on the side of melodrama (e.g., watching the fallen elephant's calf wait for its mother to get up, Akimbo "declared war on the poachers"), but Smith effectively builds suspense. The boy realizes he is being stalked by an animal in the darkness, then narrowly escapes from a charging rhino. Akimbo emerges as a hero after leading his father and another ranger back to the poachers. The tale's brevity, Smith's concise writing and Pham's evocative full-page half-tone illustrations make this an attractive choice for reluctant readers. Akimbo and the Lions (1-58234-687-9) is also due out this month. Ages 7-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This first book begins an uncommon new series. First, it features a plucky black protagonist in a slim book, an unusual and sought after commodity in short novels. Second, Akimbo is appealing and unique. Third, it is written by an adult writer who makes a successful transition to writing for children. Fourth, it has adventures and animals, two favorite themes. The hero is young Akimbo who lives on a game reserve in Africa with his father, the head ranger. In under 70 pages of the first book, the boy outwits a charging rhino and the head of a ring of poachers. He walks three hours solo to begin the adventure, as well as lying and stealing to save the elephants. 2005, Bloomsbury, Ages 7 to 10.
—Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 2-3-The author of the adult "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" mystery series originally published these delightful children's stories in Great Britain in the early 1990s. His short, illustrated chapter-book adventures will transport American readers to the plains of Africa where Akimbo lives with his parents on a Kenyan game reserve. His father works as a park ranger, and, on occasion, Akimbo is allowed to accompany him while he works. In Elephants, the two encounter a dead elephant, killed for its tusks. When the poachers aren't found immediately, Akimbo devises a plan to catch them in the act. After several suspenseful moments, the boy's simple, yet innocent plan works. In Lions, the child accompanies his father and other rangers as they investigate news of lion attacks. The plan is to trap the marauding animal and take it to another area, but by accident, they capture its cub. The African setting, dramatic full-page pencil illustrations, and the animal facts woven into the stories are sure to capture young readers.-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Well before Smith became known for his deft, book club pleasing Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, he penned sweet stories of Akimbo, the intrepid, natureloving African boy. From his father, Akimbo learns to love animals and passes up no opportunity to protect them from poachers and sometimes from each other. In the first adventure, Akimbo learns about poachers who kill elephants for their tusks. In the tradition of the Hardy Boys, he takes matters into his own hands, breaks a few family rules and hunts the poachers himself. In the second story (Akimbo and the Lions), Akimbo's father is called upon to save livestock from encroaching lions, and a cub is abandoned in the process. While readers will want to know which country Akimbo calls home and will question the stereotyped sex roles, they will cheer for the goodhearted boy as he bravely faces each danger in his quest to protect his beloved animals. (Fiction. 711)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781599900315
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 1/23/2007
  • Series: Akimbo Series
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 80
  • Age range: 7 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.55 (h) x 0.23 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexander McCall Smith

Alexander McCall Smith has written more than 50 books, including the bestselling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency mysteries and The Sunday Philosophy Club. A professor of medical law at Edinburgh University, he was born in what is now Zimbabwe and taught law at the University of Botswana.LeUyen Pham has illustrated numerous award-winning books for children, including Big Sister, Little Sister; Sing-Along Song; and Piggies in a Polka. She lives in San Francisco, California.


Alexander McCall Smith was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and went to school in Bulawayo, near the Botswana border. Although he moved to Scotland to attend college and eventually settled in Edinburgh, he always felt drawn to southern Africa and taught law for a while at the University of Botswana. He has written a book on the criminal law of Botswana, and among his successful children's books is a collection of African folk tales, Children of Wax.

Eventually, Smith had an urge to write a novel about a woman who would embody the qualities he admired in the people of Botswana, and the result, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, was a surprise hit, receiving two special Booker citations and a place on the Times Literary Supplement's International Books of the Year and the Millennium list. "The author's prose has the merits of simplicity, euphony and precision," Anthony Daniels wrote in the Sunday Telegraph. "His descriptions leave one as if standing in the Botswanan landscape. This is art that conceals art. I haven't read anything with such unalloyed pleasure for a long time."

Despite the book's success in the U.K., American publishers were slow to take an interest, and by the time The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency was picked up by Pantheon Books, Smith had already written two sequels. The books went from underground hits to national phenomena in the United States, spawning fan clubs and inspiring celebratory reviews. Smith is also the author of a detective series featuring the insatiably curious philosopher Isabel Dalhousie and the 44 Scotland Street novels, which present a witty portrait of Edinburgh society

In an interview on the publisher's web site, Smith says he thinks the country of Botswana "particularly chimes with many of the values which Americans feel very strongly about -- respect for the rule of law and for individual freedom. I hope that readers will also see in these portrayals of Botswana some of the great traditional virtues in Africa -- in particular, courtesy and a striking natural dignity."

Good To Know

As a professor at Edinburgh Law School, Smith specializes in criminal law and medical law, and has written about the legal and ethical aspects of euthanasia, medical research, and medical practice.

When he isn't writing books or teaching, Smith finds time to play the bassoon in the candidly named amateur ensemble he co-founded, The Really Terrible Orchestra.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    First in a wonderful series of books for children.

    My children and I were first introduced to Akimbo and his adventures when we checked out the audio version (read by Alexander McCall Smith himself). The characters were so appealing, and the adventures so exciting, that we found ourselves sitting outside of our destinations, listening in our car to just a bit more!

    Akimbo is an African boy coming of age on an animal reserve managed by his father. This young hero is full of love and awe for all the animals they protect and care for, and just at the age where he is starting to realize the dangers that face his father, and the animals themselves, from poachers. To help them, he decides he will face danger to himself, whatever the cost. Though his actions may be a bit reckless, the reader gets a sense of the urgency Akimbo feels to do something to help, even as a youngster.

    The adventure is realistic enough to keep the reader fully engaged with dangers and moral questions that come up in the story. I highly recommend it to anyone with children who have outgrown preschool books and shows, and are starting to claim their own rights and responsibilities in the world. Akimbo is a fine friend to have on the journey.

    The books are written at a 7-9 year old reading level.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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