Sato and the Elephants

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
A young Japanese boy wants to carve ivory as beautifully as his father. When his father dies, Sato is good enough to begin selling his work, but big pieces of ivory are harder and harder to find. One day Sato gets a perfect chunk of ivory and, after a lot of thought, he knows he wants to make an elephant. As he cuts away the ivory, he sees a dark spot and to his horror, he discovers that it's a bullet. Only then does Sato begin to realize where ivory really come from. By the end of the book, Sato is able to change his dream so it works for him and the elephants, too.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-A visually attractive book, created to help children understand one of the ugly realities of the world-the slaughter of African elephants for the ivory trade. The story is told from the perspective of a Japanese boy who learns the craft of ivory carving from his father, allowing readers to identity with someone whose proud way of life and livelihood are threatened by the world's ecological concerns. His painful decision to give up his hard-won skill in favor of carving in stone begins with his discovery of a bullet in a large piece of ivory. He then has a dream of being with the elephants on the African plain. The text is straightforward and contains interesting details, but the mood is developed largely through the fine watercolor illustrations. They primarily depict images of modern Japan, yet show the continuity of traditional ways. The pages are beautifully composed, using a variety of dominant colors to convey changing feelings, and are filled with the kind of detail that fascinates children. However, because the transition into the dream is so seamless, the book's message is likely to be confusing and unconvincing to readers. The approach here is creative, but the story's appeal and effectiveness are limited by its unclear dream sequence.-Loretta Kreider Andrews, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore
Deborah Abbott
Sato, who aspires to be a master ivory cutter like his father, finally acquires an expensive but superb piece of elephant tusk and carefully begins carving. But after he spends many hours of intense carving, his knife slips, revealing a bullet lodged within the seemingly flawless tusk. All night he carves, sculpturing the image of an elephant with a bullet embedded in its forehead. Dizzy with weariness, he falls asleep. He dreams about a wild and frightening adventure with a herd of elephants, which stuns him into realizing that for him to perform his artistry, elephants must be killed. Jolted, he decides to learn the mysteries of stones and perfect his craft on them. This book focuses on the controversial African ivory trade and the Japanese carvers, a connection made in few books for children. The handsome paintings establish a convincing sense of place while vividly portraying the artist's anguish as he contemplates the fate of elephants tied so unfortunately to his profession. Good for discussion with older children as well.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688111557
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/1/1993
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 1
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.42 (w) x 11.31 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Juanita Havill
Juanita Havill and Anne Sibley O'Brien have collaborated on five previous stories about Jamaica and her friends. Ms. Havill lives in Cave Creek, Arizona, and Ms. O'Brien lives on Peaks Island, Maine.
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