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Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War
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Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War

4.37  ·  Rating Details  ·  933 Ratings  ·  233 Reviews
A zookeeper recounts the story of John, Tonky, and Wanly, three performing elephants at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, whose turn it is to die, and of their keepers, who weep and pray that World War II will end so their beloved elephants might be saved.
Paperback, 32 pages
Published October 30th 1997 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1988)
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38th out of 105 books — 9 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,624)
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Oct 17, 2011 Heather rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011-read, children
The book is supposed to bring about anti-war sentiments...but not for me. The illustrations were wonderful, but I just didn't buy the story. The zookeepers really couldn't figure out a more humane way to kill the elephants? I'm sure they had shotguns, at least. They really didn't have needles big enough to draw blood or administer other things for the elephants?

Yes, war is sh*tty, it really is. But this book didn't help me think more about anti-war, just how come these zookeepers were so inhuman
Amanda Vaughan
Sep 25, 2015 Amanda Vaughan rated it really liked it
Shelves: wow-books
Unintentional consequences of war. Who are the real victims during times of war? This is the emotional story of three elephants - John, Tonky, and Wanly from the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, Japan and their keepers. The story chronicles the lives of these three elephants as war is taking place all around them. The story takes place during WWII and is a wonderful story of love, affection, and the internal struggle of those who have to make the choice between life and death for those they care about.

This b
Aug 21, 2007 Cherie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who has a heart
My mom's student teacher was subbing for another teacher who had an emergency and had to leave. "Here, read this." So my mom's student teacher did--and read the entire thing to a class of first graders, who were bawling when he was done with it. Later, he said, "I didn't know what to do. She told me to read it and I didn't want to disobey her." The teacher had not read it...

My mom told me about the story and I read it. I cried. I told my friend about it and I got teary talking about it (and this
Jul 20, 2015 Vee rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carson Armentrout
Nov 20, 2015 Carson Armentrout rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wow-books
This is one of the most heartbreaking books that I have ever read. The book really gives you a larger perspective on the devastation that war leaves behind. So often times we think of the soldiers that put their lives on the line to fight on either side of a war, but not animals. The animals at the Ueno Zoo were peaceful and well trained animals. Prior to the two elephants that live at the zoo now, there were three other elephants. When bombs were being dropped on Tokyo, the zoo keepers decided ...more
Apr 25, 2016 Addison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wow-books
Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya is a powerful story that reflects the horrors of war on an unlikely suspect. The story is captivating first by the beautiful illustrations of the animals in a Japanese Zoo. Faithful Elephants retells the devastating story of a Japanese Zoo in a panic to save their animals from bombing that is happening in Japan during WWII. The zookeepers in the zoo are forced to kill the animals that are at the zoo because they don't want them to die by a bomb that could hit ...more
Jubilation Lee
I'm really nervous about giving this book two stars, because my fellow reviewers seem to be on the other end of the ratings spectrum, and I don't want to give the impression that I think peace is a terrible, terrible thing.

But honestly, did no one else think this was kind of... heavy-handed? I'm not even talking about the page with the zookeepers throwing their fists to the sky whilst shrieking "Stop the war! Stop all wars!" I just mean the overall tone of the book.

I also got a little caught up
Feb 25, 2016 Steph rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jarod Conroy
Jan 10, 2016 Jarod Conroy rated it really liked it
It was a bery interesting book.
Oct 17, 2015 Ella rated it liked it
Faithful Elephants, written by Yukio Tcuchiya and illustrated by Ted Lewin, is a one of a kind book. It’s a sad story unlike any others. The plot, the characters, and the setting combine together to make it a true page turner that no one can resist. Even though Faithful Elephants is a picture book, it has a deeper meaning than most full sized novels. In other words, Faithful Elephants is great story that everyone should read.
Ted Lewin’s watercolor illustrations complement the text. The colors u
This book was awful. It talks about how the dangers of war allowed individuals to justify killing animals for no immediate reason. They could have shipped the animals to safer destinations, there were clearly other alternatives. In times of war they should have plans for the animals. When taking on an animal as a pet, there are certain responsibilities that one must undertake. If you feel you cannot care for it properly, it does not give you the right to simply kill them off.
Dec 28, 2014 Abby rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sarah Federspiel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kate Matson
Jun 27, 2016 Kate Matson rated it liked it
Shelves: youngsters
It was a beautiful book, but it was one of the saddest book Ive ever read. I can't deal with animal deaths. I was literally crying the whole time. It was way too depressing about the elephants. What evil person would enforce that??? WHY!!!!!?????
Nov 21, 2011 Lee rated it it was amazing
I read this to my 4th grade class and it was very difficult not to get choked up.
May 11, 2012 Donalyn rated it it was amazing
The tragic, and often ignored, story of what happens to animals during war.
Mar 08, 2016 Lindy added it
Upper Elementary- When a young girl finds an elephant tombstone at the zoo in Japan, a man tells her about the unfortunate events that happened during WWII. Because the city was being bombed, the zookeeper was afraid the animals would escape during one of the raids and hurt people, so all the animals had to be put down. However, the elephants were too smart and wouldn't eat the poisoned food. Their skin was too think to inject it into them, so they starved the elephants to death. It was very dif ...more
Apr 25, 2014 Cassidy rated it really liked it
Through the lives of three helpless elephants, the detrimental effects of WWII are depicted. Readers will empathize for the poor animals who suffer and die because of war. Overall, this book gives a perspective that is often not thought of by many but very meaningful and touching; especially to children. Moreover, lots of discussion should take place before, during and reading this story as many emotions and questions will arise.
In addition, the memorial is an actual place in Tokyo and something
Ashlynn Pope
Mar 16, 2015 Ashlynn Pope rated it really liked it
This read was amazing because gf how touching it was. Faithful elephants is about a time when zoo keepers have to put some animals down because they are scared they will escaped because of the damage from the bomb. With the elephants too smart, they do not eat the food and the loyal zoo keeps just want the war to be over because they do not want to kill them. This is such a great example of war and how destructive it is. The pictures did such an amazing job with showing emotion and getting to th ...more
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I picked up this book as soon as I read that Jillian Heise thought that it'd be a good companion to Endangered. I'd recently decided that for my 8th grade 4th nine weeks class read aloud, we'd read Endangered and I trusted that Jillian knew what she was talking about. The subtitle warned me thatthis picture book would definitely not be a cheery one, but I could not have prepared myself for how emotional the book actually was. The lyrical wr
Jill Sanders
This narrative point of view book is about three elephant's lives at Ueno Zoo in Tokoyo, Japan. The three elephants were named: John, Tonky, and Wanly. Japan was going through a war and the bombs being dropped were setting the tigers, lions, and bears go causing dangerous situations. The zoo keepers decided to poison all of the animals to keep the people safe. John died first, however he was not poisoned because he was so smart that he could tell which potatoes were poisoned and which were not. ...more
Nov 29, 2011 Lindsay rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
I had such a difficult time rating this book because it was as incredible as it was sad. This really helps you see war from a different perspective, which I think would resonate quite a bit with younger students who have a difficult time understanding the gravity of war and violence. No one can see any good or purpose in harming an innocent animal. While the story itself is one filled with grief and emotion, the full bleed, watercolor illustrations definitely enhance the tone the author has alre ...more
Adam Bakken
Dec 01, 2013 Adam Bakken rated it really liked it
The book features zoo keepers in Japan during WWII who are ordered to kill all of their animals. If bombs hit the zoo, it would be dangerous to have animals escape into the city. They manage to do this until they get to the elephants, who avoid eating poison and whose skin cannot be pierced by needles. The zoo keepers starve the elephants too death, but it is too sad. Once the last elephant dies, the keepers burst into tears, and the main keeper ends with a yell into the sky, “Stop all wars! Sto ...more
This is actually a young child’s book, but I don’t think I would let a child read it unsupervised or better yet wait until they are older and able to understand. It is the true story of Tokyo’s zoo in WW2. It was decided to kill all the dangerous animals because of the bombings and the danger of the animals getting loose. While most of the animals were poisoned the 3 elephants are left to starve to death and the book is about them and their trainer. A moving book that is beautifully illustrated.
Feb 27, 2014 Mckinley rated it liked it
This is a very sad story. I like animals and have pets but I wouldn't describe myself as a big animal rights fan. I don't put animal needs over human ones for example. I don't condone animal testing or enjoy the use of animals in sports. This story really got to me. While I don't think it was super well written, and I really wonder did the elephants really need to be starved to death?, nevertheless the story will stay with me for awhile. And that shows how impactfully it is done.
Angel Romero
Nov 27, 2013 Angel Romero rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book, fiction
Summary: John, Tonky, and Wanly live a terrible life during WWII. The Japanese government orders the zoo to kill the animals. These elephants resist the poison and are starved to death. The elephants are buried under a monument at the zoo today in Japan.
This is a wonderful story. I had never been so touched by a children’s book like this. This is a great story to share with third graders. I would also read this in every grade in school. It made me tear up to think of the animals in dan
Darlene Ivy
I read the 1951 text, translated and published in the US in 1988. Who ever thought about what happens in a zoo during a war? What happens if cages for large and dangerous animals are damaged and the animals escape? At the Tokyo Zoo during WW2, keepers poisoned and killed many animals, but the elephants were too smart to eat the poisoned food. The rest is a heartbreaking story of how the elephants were starved to death.
Meghan Schroeder
Nov 07, 2015 Meghan Schroeder rated it did not like it
Shelves: educ-542-ewu
This book has a powerful message, but is very upsetting. Because it creates such strong emotions makes it the amazing book that it is, however, I will never read this book again because of how upset it made me. I couldn't read this to a group of students let alone discuss it. The message to to reader helps put the book into perspective, but I was still very upset and emotional for a long time after reading.
Alex Niemi
Feb 25, 2014 Alex Niemi rated it really liked it
Yukio Tsuchiya writes an original story about elephants in a zoo during World War II. The Japanese Army requested every zoo in Japan to poison animals that could escape and harm civilians. However, the poison did not work on the Indian Elephants. The elephants were put to death in a way that let children feel fear and sadness caused by war. In my opinion, this book is not appropriate for very young children because of its emotional appeal.
May 02, 2013 Victoria added it
Shelves: edre-4870
What: This book is about zoo keepers who live in Japan during WWII. Bomb raids occur frequently, and the military orders that all zoo animals be put down. The zoo keepers manage until it comes to their faithful elephants, who are too smart to eat poisoned food and have skin too tough to be broken by a lethal injection. The zoo keepers then starve the elephants to death. The book ends with a cry for no more war.

So What: I was excited to read this book when it was presented to our class because I
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