Cover Reveal for Elephant Secret by Eric Walters
People love elephants. I love elephants. Raise your hand if you’d like to just run off today and hang out with elephants . . . I know your hand is up. I got to do that. I hung out with elephants. I had a little baby, Hannah, who repeatedly tried to steal my hat and push her trunk into my mouth. I had a big female brush her head by my head, look me in the eye from a foot away and snuffle all around me. I had a big elephant – the matriarch of the herd – step on my foot, and then carefully remove it without hurting me. I read everything I could read, I talked to experts and had them read drafts of the book. I was writing fiction but had to make sure that the nonfiction – the facts – were right. I love experiencing what my characters are going through. These experiences have taken me on walks across Kenya, up to the top of Kilimanjaro and on a trek on foot across the Sahara Desert. Hanging out with elephants was just as spectacular as standing on the top of Kilimanjaro and watching the sun come up!
Elephants are amazing, complex, gentle, huge, creatures. After humans, they have the most complex social functioning of any animals. Their sense of hearing is amazing and their sense of smell is well beyond any other animal in the world. They are animals, but they are such unique animals, possessing many characteristics that we consider ‘human’. They have a sense of self, a sense of humor and playfulness. They have long term memories and emotional attachments. They are born and raised in family groups. They grieve the parting and passing of other members of their elephant family. In writing about a herd of elephants I had to make sure that they were real, complex characters, and that their actions, reactions and interactions were reflective of how these amazing creatures would actually behave.
Elephant Secret is told through the eyes of my protagonist, a young girl, Sam, who is in grade 8. She and her father run a sanctuary for Asian elephants. Money is always tight and there are many expenses in feeding and caring for a herd of elephants that include Raja, Trixie, Daisy Mae and Woolly. These elephants have personalities, qualities and quirks that make each elephant a character. They are just as unique and just as significant as my human characters.
A mysterious backer enters the picture and suddenly there is enough money, but there are also conditions, some clearly stated, and one condition in particular, completely unknown; a condition that nobody could possibly see coming. And that’s the secret.
My first book was written for my students. I was teaching grade 5 and was given a class – almost all boys – who seemed to be really good in three subjects: gym, recess and lunch. They didn’t like to read and they didn’t like to write. They were pretty good at making up stories but that was mainly to avoid being suspended . . . again. I wrote my first story for them. It was set in our school, in our community and six of the students, with their permission, had characters named after them. I read the book to them, chapter by chapter, as I wrote it. At the end, the boys came up to me and said ‘your book is better than most of the stuff we have to read’ – a high compliment from this group – “why don’t you try to get it published?”
I probably wrote my first 20 books for my class, but really, I’ve written all my books for somebody’s class. When I’m writing I remember being the teacher standing in front of my class sharing a book that I knew they’d enjoy. Shared reading, or recommending a book, is like a magic trick that inspires kids to think and read and write. I hope you’ll enjoy Elephant Secret and feel some of that magic.
Eric Walters has written nearly 100 children’s books, which have been translated into 13 languages and won over 125 awards. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2014 for his contribution as an author of literature for children and young adults. Walters also runs The Creation of Hope, a charity providing care for orphans in the Mbooni District of Kenya. Visit him at www.ericwalters.net and on Twitter at @EricRWalters.