The Snow Baby by Katherine Kirkpatrick and Just for Elephants by Carol Buckley

Just for Elephants

Under the heading of “who knew”—or for that matter, who’d ever even thought—come two interesting new non-fiction books.  They’re both short biographies, kind of, because one is about an elephant, but they have lives too, don’t they?  And both fall into that “Gee, I’m glad to know about this” category.  They’re the kind of books you didn’t know you wanted to read until you were finished with them.

Buckley’s Just for Elephants is an amazingly touching book about Shirley, an elderly, crippled elephant, who after years in a zoo is transported to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee.  That’s right, there are elephants roaming the rolling hills of Tennessee.  They’re under the watchful care of Carol and her partner Scott Blais at their Elephant Sanctuary.  Extraordinary. 

Even more extraordinary is the tale of an old, lonely elephant and how she is reunited with a long lost friend from her earlier circus days.  Kindness and friendship—on the part of both animals and humans—just radiate through the entire story.  From the wonderful photo on the cover to the notes about the sanctuary at the end, this simple, straightforward book with spare text and almost candid photos is for anyone who has ever loved an animal.


The Snow Baby Taking place on the other side of the world, Snow Baby is the tale of not only a brave Arctic explorer, Admiral Robert E. Peary, but of his equally—maybe even braver–wife and their daughter, Marie. How many women in 1893, even now for that matter, would, when they were pregnant, give up a life of ease and leisure to live in a two room hut near the Arctic with a nurse and twelve other explorers?  That was Josephine Peary, wife of the explorer and mother of Marie.  Her only regret was that she forgot to bring a broom so that she could sweep every now and then.  No wonder Marie grew into such an exceptional child.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The book written in an easy to read, chatty manner and  tells of Marie’s unusual childhood spent both in a large, comfortable home in Washington, D.C. and on board sailing ships headed for the frozen north.  The winter after her seventh birthday, Marie and her mother—along with the rest of the ship’s crew—became shipwrecked.  They were “prisoners of the ice.  The long, intensely dark, and biting Arctic winter was upon them.”  They weren’t going anywhere for a long time so what did Marie do?  She helped to build igloos, played with native children, learned to speak the Inuit language and played practical jokes on the ship’s crew.  To her way of thinking, there was never a dull moment.

Even as well written as the story is—and it’s a truly good read–it comes alive thanks to the many personal photos of Marie, her family, friends and of course, the Arctic.So, the next time someone asks “Who Knew?” you can say, “Why, I did!”

Posted by: Eileen

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