Imvula: Child of the Rain by Mark Gillies

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Imvula: Child of the Rain by Mark Gillies

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The story of a special day in the life of one young elephant in the African bush told by someone who has worked with them and observed them closely.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 80 Date: May 2007
Publisher: Athena Press Ltd
ISBN: 978-1844019656

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Mark Gilles spent several months in the Pongola Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal and seems to have lost his heart to the elephants. Imvula is the story he told for his niece Natasha when he returned from Africa and it's about one very special day in the life of a young elephant of that name.

Imvula means Rain in Zulu and the baby elephant was so named because it rained on the day he was born. Although the story covers just one special day Natasha is told a little about Imvula's life from the day he was born. Like humans, young elephants spend a long time with their mother before they start to fend for themselves in their mid teens and the bull elephants leave the herd. Imvula struggles to control his trunk - it simply won't do what he wants it to do in the early days!

Humans are around but they're in the form of tourists and sightseers and are no threat to the elephants, although the odd practice charge at a jeep doesn't go amiss. Fortunately for the humans his long legs are no more in his control than his trunk! The picture of this young elephant is obviously born of close observation but put into language that a child can understand. Did you know that an elephant's eyes never grow? That's why they look outrageously large in the calves but very small in the adults.

Imvula's special day begins much as any other, but it would seem strange to those of us not used to the African bush. With no light pollution the African nights are dark and rely on the moon or stars for illumination. That's necessary because the elephant spends much of the night on the move or feeding and there are lots of traps for the unwary. Imvula literally falls into one of them. Gradually the night recedes and the special day begins.

I'm not going to tell you what happens on Imvula's special day, except to say that it was very special indeed and not just because it was one of the few occasions when he met up with his father. This is just a lovely, lovely story.

Actually, I'm going to tell you what it's NOT. This isn't a book with cartoon pictures of angelic-looking baby elephants and a saccharine story line. The black-and-white drawings by Zoe Sadler are of real elephants and reflect the character of the African bush. Nothing is prettified. Nor is this a childish tale about a young elephant going to school or doing other 'human' activities. It's a story about what does happen in the lives of young elephants, omitting only such points as the fact that not all humans are as well-meaning as the tourists. It would make a lovely read for a child interested in animals and should be regarded as a learning resource rather than a story to be read and forgotten.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag.

A child interested in birds might also enjoy Nicola Davies' White Owl, Barn Owl, which has illustrations by Michael Foreman.

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