Elephant-y books, a giveaway & an interview with Carol Buckley


Phew! Prepare yourself for one juicy, packed-full-of-treats post! Today I am happy to review two lovely non-fiction picture books from Tilbury House about the elephants at Tennessee’s amazing Elephant Sanctuary. These books are authored by Carol Buckley, one of the founders of the Sanctuary. As well, Carol has stopped by for an interview. Finally, Tilbury has kindly arranged for a few prizes in celebration of this blog tour: one is a copy of Just for Elephants signed by author and Sanctuary co-founder Carol Buckley, and the grand prize is a copy of Travels With Tarra, signed by Carol and featuring a scanned image of Tarra’s signature symbol – her footprint! Also, a package of Tilbury House Animal Books— The Goat Lady, Thanks to the Animals, and an advance copy of Bear-ly There will go to one lucky winner who leaves a comment on one or more of the respective tour posts (September 1-8, 2009). For all of these prizes, you just need to leave a comment on one of the posts in Carol’s blog tour. If you are on twitter, you can also win a copy of each of Carol’s books by tweeting before September 9th about the tour using the hashtag #trunktour. Winners will be contacted at the end of the blog tour after September 10th. (Note: open only to residents of Canada and the U.S.)

Let’s get on with the celebration!

Just for Elephants introduces readers to the Sanctuary and its philosophy by focusing on the story of how one of the resident elephants, Shirley, came to live there. Readers will steal a glimpse into everyday life for the elephants at the Sanctuary and through Shirley’s connection to the other elephants, begin to appreciate the complex and deep social relationships that elephants form. Travels with Tarra is the story of Carol Buckley’s amazing relationship with Tarra, the Asian elephant she has had for more than 25 years. It traces their early years performing together at circuses, theme parks and zoos, moving on to the years when Carol was establishing the Elephant Sanctuary. Both books are written in a simple and direct narrative style that will be accessible to younger readers, but with detail enough to engage older readers too, for both those who enjoy non-fiction and fictional texts. Some of the photography is fantastic, with pictures of the elephants hanging out, roaming and enjoying life and freedom on the land at the Sanctuary. A few of the photos in Just for Elephants were quite out-of-focus, which while this lent a certain “behind-the-scenes realism” to the text, I thought was a little distracting and surprising, given that I’m sure there were thousands of possible pictures to use. Travels with Tarra has some great shots of Tarra as a wee little elephant, sure to inspire more than a few “Aawww!”s.

As usual with Tilbury, teachers will find many good ideas for using these books in the classroom at Tilbury’s site. Also, while the Sanctuary is not open for visitors, they have established opportunities for teachers to schedule virtual tours via teleconference and there are excellent units for K-8 available for free downloading at the website.

Tilbury has come up with a lovely way to support the Elephant Sanctuary by planning a “Trunk Sale” running now through December 31st. For every 100 copies of the elephant books (Travels With Tarra and Just for Elephants) that are sold, Tilbury will sponsor a much-needed item from the Sanctuary’s wish list. These include 100lbs of peanut butter (a favorite treat), elephant-sized meals, and land to roam (to support the Sanctuary’s recent expansion). The books are available from indie stores across the country, online retailers, and direct from The Elephant Sanctuary, www.elephants.com.

Now for the interview. Welcome Carol!

I’m sure that in all of your years caring for and working with elephants, you’ve seem some pretty remarkable social interactions between elephants. Could you share the most memorable moment you’ve witnessed related to elephant interaction?

One of the most remarkable scenes I have witnessed occurred was shortly after Bunny arrived. Bunny had live 44 years alone in a small zoo. Her keepers were highly protective of her to the point of sheltering her from experiences that might have helped her to become a more confident individual, but they cared deeply for Bunny and felt they were doing the right thing by being over protective. When Bunny arrived at the Sanctuary she was insecure about the very ground she walked on. The surface was not level as she was used to and she had no experience with negotiating trails, climbing a gentle sloop or crossing a rocky creek. This evening Bunny was making her way back to the barn with a caregiver at her side gently coaxing her over this new and scary terrain. Bunny failed to recognize the land dropping slightly and tripped. She fell to her knees. She was visually shaken although she had not fallen down or injured herself, she was afraid. The caregiver tried to comfort Bunny and encourage her but she would not move. She was frozen in fear. At that point Barbara, another elephant, appeared in the distance, she was looking in Bunny’s direction. Bunny was not uttering an audible sound at least not audible to the human ear. But Barbara appeared to be responding to something as she came directly over to Bunny, gently laid her trunk on Bunny face and then just as silently as she arrived, Barbara turned to leave. Bunny rose from her knees and immediately followed Barbara without hesitation.

Your website has wonderfully detailed information about all of the resident elephants at the Sanctuary, with amazing pictures documenting their day-to-day life. I’m sure readers would love to know even more about them. What are some of the funniest / sweetest / strangest quirks of several of your elephants?

With so much happening each day and the uniqueness of each elephant I think the reader would benefit most by visiting our elephant diaries. These entries give intimate accounts of the elephants, a window into their world, into their hearts. (You might wish to check out these links in particular: 1, 2, 3.

Much has been made in literature and in the media of elephants’ seemingly complex and rich social/emotional lives. We seem to be fascinated by all of the ways elephants are like us, in their memories, abilities and relationships. What is your perspective? Do you feel elephants have been overly anthropomorphized, or do you think the elephant/human comparisons are useful and valid?

The truth is that elephants walked the planet long before us and the idea that we humans claim all emotion as human is rather ignorant and arrogant. Elephants embody emotion, they don’t own emotion nor do they strive to emulate humans but humans could definitely benefit and our societies prosper on so many levels if we emulate elephants. I accepted that emotions are experienced by all species, not exclusively possessed by any one species.

Thank you so much Carol for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you the best with the Sanctuary and the books.

Be sure to visit the other stops on the “Elephants on Tour” blog party for even more elephant-y goodness:

Tuesday, Sept. 1: Reading Rumpus
Wednesday, Sept. 2: Sacred Elephants
Thursday, Sept. 3: Read These Books and Use Them!
Friday, Sept. 4: Maw Books
Saturday, Sept. 5: right here, right now!
Sunday, Sept. 6: Bees Knees
Monday, Sept. 7: Through The Looking Glass
Tuesday, Sept. 8: Bri Meets Books

In addition to Tilbury House’s titles, Just for Elephants and Travels with Tarra, Carol has a book that has just been released with Putnam called Terra and Bella. You’ve probably seen the videos about these two pals, but here’s one from the Sanctuary that showcases this amazing inter-species friendship:

How could you resist? Don’t forget to drop off a comment to enter to win one of the copies of the books Tilbury House has donated for this tour.

** NEWS! Tilbury is so happy to see the many comments left on Carol’s blog stops, so they’ve decided to add a sort of bonus prize, an extra donation to the Sanctuary on behalf of everyone who participated in the tour. For the 100 or so people who posted comments, tweeted, or hosted a stop, we will be sponsoring 100 lbs of peanut butter, a favorite snack of “the girls” at the Sanctuary. Isn’t this publisher awesome?**


7 thoughts on “Elephant-y books, a giveaway & an interview with Carol Buckley

  1. Tricia

    I remember seeing this video when it went viral. I watched it over and over, as it really made me smile–such a touching relationship.
    The books sound interesting. I’ll need to look for them.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review and interview.

  2. shelfelf Post author

    It’s crazy-adorable the way Bella just wags her way along next to Tarra (love it when she walks straight underneath her). I just can’t get enough of these inter-species friendships. I’m a sucker for it. Thanks for visiting Tricia!

  3. Marie

    What a wonderful interview! I shared it with my daughter — she’s only six but she wants to be a zoo vet when she grows up and she loves elephants!

  4. Janet Auty-Carlisle

    Thank you for including this book. I am planning on going to this Sanctuary in 2010, early in the year, and I am so happy to have been able to “see” it live via the video. She is doing wonderful work and, as a coach, it’s inspriing to see someone working at their passion. Living la vida fearless, Janet Auty-Carlisle

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