Curriculum is ready.
But as soon as Nick arrives, trouble erupts in this remote Burmese elephant village. Japanese soldiers invade, and Nick’s father is taken prisoner. Nick is stranded on the plantation, forced to work as a servant to the new rulers. As life in the village grows more dangerous for Nick and his young friend, Mya, they plan their daring escape. Setting off on elephant back, they will risk their lives to save Nick’s father and Mya’s brother from a Japanese POW camp.
In this thrilling journey through the jungles of Burma, Roland Smith explores the far-reaching effects of World War II, while introducing readers to the fascinating world of wild timber elephants and their mahouts.
Fourteen-year-old Nick Freestone is sent from London in 1941 by his mother to protect him from the German air raids. As he arrives in Burma to live with his father on the family teak plantation, he is thrust from one theatre of war directly into another. Though Nick had been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to reconnect with his father and learn about the management of the family plantation, particularly the elephants used to harvest the teak, this is not to be. Now safe from the German army, he and his father are taken prisoner by the Japanese army. Nick is kept on as slave labor at the plantation while his father is sent to a POW camp nearby. Maya, the beautiful sister of one the plantation elephant handlers is imprisoned at the plantation as well. Her beauty draws her unwanted attention and puts her in danger. As one of her captors escalates his advances towards her, Nicks father is becoming sicker and sicker in the POW camp. Nick and Maya decide they must escape. With the help of a local monk and one of the plantation elephants, Nick and Maya attempt to escape, taking Nicks father with them. This book provides a moving story of a boy´s journey into manhood as well as an action-packed adventure that keeps the pages turning. It also provides a look at the innocent victims of war, the animals. The interactions between man and elephant in this book are fascinating. This is a great book to draw boys or reluctant readers into the realms of historical fiction.
Caroline B. Hopenwasser
It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire for 14-year-old Nick Freestone, as he is sent out of London during the Blitz only to arrive at his father’s teak plantation in Burma right before the Japanese invade. When his father is taken prisoner and hauled off to a prisoner-of-war camp and the plantation is taken over by the Japanese, Nick eventually escapes and reunites with his father with the help of an ancient Buddhist monk, a beautiful, smart girl named Mya, a Burmese Robin Hood, a rampaging bull elephant and various people resisting the Japanese occupation. It’s the thrilling adventure tale Smith is known for, strong on plot and setting, and though the beginning is an uneasy mix of story and information, the tale soon rolls. Adult readers will be reminded of The Bridge on the River Kwai, as the threats of the steamy jungle and the brutality of enemy soldiers are twin complications in a country at war. An adventure tale that is also a family story-as is Smith’s other 2007 title, Peak. (Fiction. 10-13)
As German bombs fall on London, 14-year-old Nick is sent to Burma to live with his British father on their teak plantation. Unforeseen in this plan is the impending invasion that puts them, along with the locals, under Japanese rule. Nick is forced to work on the plantation for the brutal commanders and his father is placed in a labor camp. The boy’s predicament escalates as his trust in the Burmese employees who once worked for his father is challenged by their newfound loyalty to the Japanese. Escape through the jungle, with the help of a well-respected monk and great-grandfather to the boy’s new friend Mya, is the only way out. This novel is filled with intrigue, danger, surprising plot twists, and suspense. It´s a well-developed historical adventure with villains and heroes that describes aspects of British colonization, forced occupation, and World War II.