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When the Elephants Dance
Tess Uriza Holthe
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When the Elephants Dance

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,505 Ratings  ·  372 Reviews
“Papa explains the war like this: ‘When the elephants dance, the chickens must be careful.’ The great beasts, as they circle one another, shaking the trees and trumpeting loudly, are the Amerikanos and the Japanese as they fight. And our Philippine Islands? We are the small chickens.”

Once in a great while comes a storyteller who can illuminate worlds large and small, magic
Published by Turtleback Books (first published 2002)
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The truth about stories, is that that's all we are – Thomas King

The reality described in these pages of the Phillipines during WWII is intolerable, and there is a stark, necessary novel forming a core here of that reality, consisting of terrible scene after terrible scene. But thankfully, the varied characters of the suffering group have not lost their stories, and they keep each other going, and impart urgent advice, by telling them, thus interleaving the horror with a dazzling plethora of tale
K.D. Absolutely
If I were the mayor of Manila, I would give a symbolic key to the city to the Tess Uriza-Holte and declare her as city’s adopted daughter. If the good mayor could do that to Manny Pacquiao or to many visiting class B showbiz personalities, why not this Filipino-American author who took great interest to write this exceptional book about the Philippines particularly the City of Manila? A book that covers a sheer span of time in Philippine history from the Spanish era to the waning days of the Jap ...more
Jan 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Estela by: Geraldine
My sister-in-law gave this book for my unexpected trip to the Philippines. I didn't open the book til I got to my grandparents home and ... I was completely absorbed & had a hard time putting this book down (it was as if I was reading a long lost relative's diary). I caught myself pausing amongst certain chapters, looking at where I was at the current time, and just imagining what took place over 50 years ago here in the Philippines.

This book provided pieces of Philippine history that I use
Lisa (Harmonybites)
The opening of the novel references and explains the title:

Papa explains the war like this: ‘When the elephants dance, the chickens must be careful.’ The great beasts, as they circle one another, shaking the trees and trumpeting loudly, are the Amerikanos and the Japanese as they fight. And our Philippine Islands? We are the small chickens."

So yes, this is a story of the Philippines during World War II. And at first, I didn't think I'd like this novel much. Just before I'd read What is the What
Jul 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookgroup
When the Elephants Dance is the story of the Philippine's during WWII after the Japanese had taken control of the islands. Due to exorbitant costs and danger of death most families at that time hid with local neighbors and friends, only going out to trade or search for food to survive. This book is the story of one family - hiding in their basement with 11 neighbors and friends.

The book is broken down into 3 main parts - the first being told by the 2nd child Alenjandro, the second being told by
I think my three stars are for how easy a book this is to teach for students being so receptive to it; I've seen students of Filipino American literature find this book accessible and interesting. For some reason students for classes I have TA'ed identify with these stories, or rather, students identify with the author's disconnect with Philippine history and the country itself. This disconnect is apparent in the author's writing, in which descriptions of the land, the people, etc. appear second ...more
I didn't know very much about the history of the Philippines so I found that aspect of this book interesting. To me, though, it felt like the author tried to do too much in one book. I would have enjoyed this one more, I think, if it had stuck to the straight story line without all of the stories-within-a-story, which I found distracting. They were so long that by the time one was over I would forget the original plot line. It was also difficult for me to keep all of the characters straight beca ...more
Sep 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who want to discover more about the Philippine Islands
Recommended to Apokripos by: the "Voice"
The Power of Stories
(A Book Review of Tess Uriza Holthe’s When the Elephants Dance)

A group of neighbors seek shelter in the cellar of an abandoned house. They are cramped, huddled on the dirt, starving and terrified. Outside fierce gun battle rages on, bomb patters like rain drop on the pockmarked beauty of Manila and its countryside. Fires ablaze, consuming everything on its path in a deathly embrace.

This is the image that first bored it way in my mind while reading When The Elephants Dance, Te
(Final view, on completion of the book, found at the end.)


Oh, I am struggling...... Every chapter is the voice of another character. In this way you see what is going on in the head of the prime characters. That I have no complaint with. What I hate is that in each chapter there is also a story. And that story has always a moral. These stories chop up the book, and they are so simplistic. I just swore, OMG, here comes this chapter's story. Here comes the lesson. This is like a s
May 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I was sucked into this book and found myself reading it late into the night. It takes place in the Philippines at the end of WWII when the Japanese are beginning to lose hold of the island. The is a part of fairly recent history that I shamefully didn't know much about. We always hear about Corregidor and MacArthur, because those were American sufferings and American heroes, but we never hear about how horribly the Philippine people suffered not only under the Japanese during WWII but previously ...more
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Around the World ...: Discussion for When the Elephants Dance 4 62 Apr 11, 2016 05:00AM  
Into the Forest: When the Elephants Dance 14 18 Jan 22, 2016 03:39AM  
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TESS URIZA HOLTHE is the author of the critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling When the Elephants Dance. She grew up on a Filipino-American family in San Francisco. When the Elephants Dance is inspired, in part, by the experiences of her father, who was a young boy in the Philippines during World War II.

Tess Uriza's second book, The Five-Forty-Five to Cannes, was a San Francisco Chronicle
More about Tess Uriza Holthe...
“When you start to say to yourself, just one look back, just one glance, the danger will have begun for you.” 6 likes
“My heart aches for my people. I don’t understand why God gives more power to some and less to others.” 2 likes
More quotes…