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Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends


A friendship unlike any other!

After retiring from the circus, Tarra became the first resident of the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. When other elephants moved in and developed close friendships, only Tarra remained alone?until the day she met a stray mixed-breed dog named Bella. From then on, the two were inseparable.

Color photographs of Tarra and Bella at home in the Elephant Sanctuary deftly illustrate ...

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A friendship unlike any other!

After retiring from the circus, Tarra became the first resident of the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. When other elephants moved in and developed close friendships, only Tarra remained alone—until the day she met a stray mixed-breed dog named Bella. From then on, the two were inseparable.

Color photographs of Tarra and Bella at home in the Elephant Sanctuary deftly illustrate this inspiring story of inter-species companionship.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Children don't need to be convinced of the reality of interspecies friendships. To some adults, it might seem strange that hippo Owen and tortoise Mzee became best buds, but kids recognized immediately that there was nothing odd about that bond. Similarly, they will experience instant empathy with Tarra and Bella, the elephant and stray dog of this adorable children's book. Carol Buckley, the cofounder of Tennessee's Elephant Sanctuary, tells the story of the deep friendship between these differently sized creatures with heartfelt words and heartwarming photographs.
Publishers Weekly
With a conversational narrative and copious photographs, Buckley, cofounder and executive director of Tennessee’s Elephant Sanctuary, spotlights the true-life friendship between an unlikely pair of animals. Following in the footsteps of hippo and tortoise duo Owen and Mzee, Tarra, a retired circus elephant who needed “elephant friends and lots of room to roam,” and Bella, one of the sanctuary’s stray dogs, forge an immediate and strong bond. In one poignant scenario, Tarra stands guard by the ditch where an injured Bella is lying until sanctuary workers locate her, and remains in that spot for two days, waiting for her return. The elephant later stays by the barn where she correctly senses her friend is until a caregiver carries the ailing dog outside. Shots of Tarra petting Bella with her trunk are among the book’s most endearing pictures, which range from snapshotlike to skillfully framed images; also notable are photographs that underscore the dramatic difference in the animals’ sizes. An endnote gives additional information about the sanctuary and its mission. Though the lime-green background on some pages is distracting, the animals’ friendship will inspire young readers. Ages 3–up. (Sept.)
A sweet and sincere offering.
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Unusual friendships occur in the animal world—a racehorse insisting on sharing living quarters with a goat, a cat lovingly raising a litter of bunnies—examples abound, especially on the Internet. But here the relationship is between such disparate critters as a stray dog and an elephant retired from the entertainment industry. No one knows why Bella (the dog) decided to accompany Tarra (the elephant) everywhere, or why Tarra allowed it in the first place (animals at the Elephant Sanctuary are not tolerant of dogs who hang about). Buckley's straightforward text and her empathy-building photos warmly present an indelible image of this unlikely friendship without trying to explain it. It simply is. The book also includes a segment on the history and goals of the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN. Fans of Isabella and Craig Hatkoff's Owen & Mzee (Scholastic, 2006) will eat this up.—Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
Children's Literature - Susan Treadway M.Ed.
A powerful true story about Tarra the elephant is shared through actual photographs, bold formatting and genuine passion by the founder and CEO of the Elephant Sanctuary in Middle Tennessee. The first resident of the sanctuary, Tarra, had been a famous star in show business for twenty years and needed a welcoming, safe place upon retirement. Other elephants came to live there as well. They soon paired together to develop close friendships. All except for Tarra, that is. Somehow she was not able to find a friend and was alone. Quite surprisingly, however, a stray dog named Bella chose her one day. Even though the sanctuary has both Asian and African elephants along with other dogs, elephants do not normally trust dogs. What soon became apparent was that Bella needed a friend to care for. She wanted to pursue a worthy relationship of a most unusual kind. The book documents activities of the two inseparable companions with sensitivity and charm. As unlikely as it may seem, the two communicated well in their own ways; while the other elephants began to accept Bella, too. After a serious spinal cord injury, Bella was taken to the animal hospital. On her own, Tarra made her way to the hospital. She could not bear the separation. Once they spotted each other, it became clear that they should be together. Multiple photos illustrate the tenderness, concern and deep affection they demonstrate for one another. Once Bella was able to use her back legs some, they spent the daylight hours together. At night she had to return to the barn. Later, the pair was reunited and free to roam the sanctuary. Even though she limps, they continue to play, share meals, take walks, and even sleep or nap together. "They are truly forever best friends." With additional information about the Elephant Sanctuary given at the end of the book, this heart-warming story will capture all readers. Included is a web site for viewing live video of elephants in the 2,700 acres of open fields, a twenty-five acre lake, spring-fed ponds, flowing streams, and wooded areas southwest of Nashville. It is significant to note that introducing elements across the curriculum with an expository picture book such as this one provides an excellent opportunity for learning, discussion, hands-on projects, and family involvement. Reviewer: Susan Treadway, M.Ed.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780147510631
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 3/6/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 139,927
  • Age range: 3 - 5 Years
  • Lexile: AD990L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol Buckley is cofounder and CEO of The Elephant Sanctuary. Carol has over 30 years’ experience in the care and management of elephants and in 1995, Carol co-founded the nation's first natural-habitat refuge for sick, old, and needy endangered Asian elephants with her own elephant, Tarra. She is a well-known speaker on the subject of elephant care. Carol attended the Exotic Animal Training and Management Program at Moorpark College in California, and she is licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. She is also the author of two picture books.

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 24, 2012


    This is a good book about friendship. Children could connect to it because of the animals that are used. The pictures are very nice. This is a great place that takes takes of elephants. I wish it had more information about their project.

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  • Posted November 4, 2011

    Award Winner!

    Love this story! It should be used as an educational tool in schools, to teach children to accept everyone, as well as at home to share the love of these two animals with your children. This story shows the beautiful example, that just because we are not all the same on the outside, doesn't mean there is no friendship to be had. I can't wait to give it to my grandson for his birthday. I am so deeply saddened that Bella is no longer with Tara.

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  • Posted September 30, 2009

    Wonderful Story

    I teach 2nd grade and I picked this up for my class as a read aloud. It was a great non-fiction story to use to reinforce the wonders of nature - animals bonding - as well as introducing the concept of main idea. I can't wait to read more stories about this Elephant Sanctuary.

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    Posted April 13, 2012

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    Posted April 2, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2011

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