Author:Bonnie J. Fladung; illustrated by Margo Gabrielle Damian; afterword by James Alexander Currie

Publisher: Feather Star Press
ISBN: 9781732724204

Written in verse, this children’s book is a refreshing foray into the world of the elephant, as centered on the young elephant, Khula, son of the famous Tusker, Isilo, who put Tembe Elephant Park, situated on the Mozambican / South African border, on the map. Written in rhyme and composed with a clear awareness of the age range at which it is directed (6- to 8-year-olds, primarily), the story tells of how Khula’s musical talents lead him to interact with the grey-crowned crane and the bateleur eagle. When he grows older, and foraging for food becomes more of a priority, his mother knows that he is about to leave his family grouping to join the herds of bachelor elephants roaming the Park. However, before he goes, she takes him to see the remains of his father, King Isilo. Khula, thus, comes to realize the precious nature of his tusker inheritance, and vows to pass it on to his offspring in turn.

The uniqueness and splendor of the African elephant is brought home in this wonderful and inspiring story, not only through the fluent verse, but also through the eye-catching illustrations that capture the imagination and which should lead the perceptive reader to be able to visualize the African bush that forms such a key element in this account. The rhythm of the text is mirrored in the gentle lyricism of the watercolor pictures and carefully drawn maps that can be found throughout the book.

In addition to the central story itself, The Elephant’s Euphonium: A Little Tusker’s Adventures in Africa concludes with a description and illustration of all of Khula’s musical instruments, including the euphonium, the squash box, the vuvuzela, the shekere and the isigubhu. Khula’s forest friends, the purple-crested turaco (the igwalagwala), the tambourine dove (the imbumbazane), the bateleur eagle, the African painted dog, and the golden orb-weaving spiders (isicabucabu), are all introduced to the reader in such a way as to reveal their primary characteristics. A lively description is given of elephant behavior, as well as of the nature of tuskers. The ecological importance of the Tembe Elephant Park is described, as well as is that of the Border Cave in the Lebombo Mountains. James Alexander Currie’s relating of the story of Isilo stresses the magnificence of the tuskers, and questions what the future holds for such impressive beasts, especially in the light of what appears to be unstoppable hunting and poaching.

The Elephant’s Euphonium: A Little Tusker’s Adventures in Africa is a delightful and awe-inspiring read that should appeal to any youngster who has a fascination for wildlife and the African bush. Children everywhere should be able to enjoy and appreciate the story, as well as the informative telling of it. The Zulu terms that are used in the text are explained throughout in footnotes that provide just enough information to convey a clear understanding of the meaning of the words. In short, the book is a delight, and should appeal to both children and their caregivers—it comes thoroughly recommended.