‘The true story of an extraordinary wartime friendship‘
– The Secret Elephant
[ About the Book ]
As war looms on the horizon, things are changing at Belfast Zoo. Before, screeching monkeys dangled in trees, roaring lions sunbathed on the dusty ground and sniffling meerkats patrolled their enclosure. But now, people have stopped visiting and there is talk of a great war coming…
As bombs begin to fall on the city and huge blasts echo around the zoo, a baby elephant and her keeper sneak to the safety and comfort of the keeper’s home. Here, they weather out the worst of the war together in secret. But what will happen when their secret is found out?
Based on the incredible true story of zookeeper Denise Weston Austin and elephant Sheila, this heartfelt narrative of their unlikely bond is brought beautifully to life by exciting debut talent and winner of the Carmelite Prize 2020, Ellan Rankin.
With additional information about the real facts behind the story at the back of the book, young readers can immerse themselves in this quirky story which offers a fresh and compelling perspective on everyday life during World War II.
[ My Review ]
The Secret Elephant by Ellan Rankin was published by Wren & Rook April 13th and is a gorgeous and informative children’s book suitable for 5-7 year olds.
“Rankin writes with a lightness of heart making this a bewitchingly soothing bedtime story about how, sometimes, family are the friends we choose”
– The Irish Examiner
Both written and Illustrated by Ellan Rankin, The Secret Elephant was inspired by ‘the true story of the unlikely friendship that blossomed between Belfast Zookeeper Denise Weston Austin and Sheila the baby elephant during the Belfast Blitz’. With the story told from the perspective of Sheila, we are taken on an adventure into everyday life during World War II as the bombs begin to fall. Denise was known as ‘The Elephant Angel’ when she took it upon herself to protect Sheila by sneaking her out of the zoo every night to take shelter with her in her own house.
The illustrations throughout the book beautifully convey the enormous affection that Denise had for Sheila and the scale of the risk she took. Hiding an elephant in your home every evening is no joke!!
At the time there was a genuine fear that animals could escape if a bomb was dropped so an order had been given to kill some of the animals. Denise wasn’t having any of this and her decision to protect Sheila led her on a truly brave and extraordinary adventure. In the back of the book there is additional information about the fascinating real facts behind this incredible story.
An immersive reading experience, rich in colour and with stunning illustrations, The Secret Elephant is ideal for the classroom as a gentle introduction to that period of history, but is also very suitable for the home. Young children are very inquisitive and Ellan Rankin offers a wonderful opportunity for them to explore, ask questions and fall in love with Sheila.
The Secret Elephant is a heart-warming story of love and hope during a challenging time, a fantastic treasure for all young children with a very important message about responsibility and courage.
[ Bio ]
Ellan Rankin is a Northern Irish authorillustrator. She completed an MA in Children’s Book Illustration from Cambridge School of Art, and she also has a First Class Honors degree in Illustration from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee.
A huge animal lover, her stories often centre around animals and silly stories she reads in the news. She is inspired by history, cinema and stories.
She won Carmelite Prize 2020 and The SebastianWalker Prize 2020. She was awarded third place in the Templar Illustration and Design Awards.
Website ~ https://ellanrankin.com/
I love this!
Carol, me too! A really gorgeous book x