Ten-year-old Hastin’s sister has fallen ill, and his family must borrow money to pay for her care in the hospital. To work off the debt, Hastin leaves his village in northern India to work in a faraway jungle as an elephant keeper. He thinks it will be an adventure, but he isn’t prepared for the cruel circus owner. The crowds that come to the circus see a lively animal who plays soccer and balances on milk bottles, but Hastin sees Nandita, a sweet elephant and his best friend, who is chained when she’s not performing and punished until she learns her tricks perfectly. With the help of Ne Min, a wise old man who seems to know all about elephants, Hastin protects Nandita as best as he can. Still he wonders–will they both survive long enough to escape?
“Kelly’s fine debut brings the jungles of India to life.”
“First novelist Kelly crafts a layered, convincing tale of interspecies friendship between individuals who care for each other within the confines of enslavement.”
~ The Horn Book
“With a well-knit plot, vivid setting, and tightening web of suspense, this novel is both an affecting animal story and a well-paced adventure.”
~ School Library Journal
“…achingly heartbreaking, vivid, and unforgettable.”
~ Library Media Connection
“Kelly’s debut is ultimately a story about hope and the binding ties of human-to-human and human-to animal families and friendships, while touching on issues of animal welfare, child labor, and life in modern India. Ne Min’s secrets—and the question of whether Chanda will survive—will keep middle-grade readers hooked.”
“…a story that unwraps the heart and asks it to be brave, loyal, and above all, kind.”
~ Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author of The Underneath and Keeper.
Available now from Farrar, Straus, & Giroux/Margaret Ferguson Books.
French edition coming in July 2014 from Bayard
Japanese edition coming in February 2015 from Suzuki Publishing
A midgrade novel