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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

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,172 ratings  ·  286 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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Jonathan Peto
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
I read this in a workshop with other teachers today. The other teachers seemed to buy into the idea that the fate of the elephants at a Tokyo zoo during World War II carries a strong anti-war message. I was more skeptical. Yet I was disturbed by the story. That's one reason I liked it. There was a lot to consider, especially because the elephants were portrayed as trying to please the zookeepers to the very end.

I suppose children might be drawn in by the elephants, but I actually thought that wa
Although Yukio Tsuchiya's 1988 picture book Faithful Elephants (well, actually, the author wrote the story in the immediate post WWII period, in 1951, but this here picture book was originally published in 1988) most definitely has a very strong and also powerful anti-war (and thus also a pro peace) message, the fact that the zoo animals were deemed necessary to be killed in the first place (and that the elephants were slowly starved to death, and thus basically tortured in my opinion, instead o ...more
Oct 08, 2011 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
Aug 21, 2007 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 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amanda Vaughan
Sep 25, 2015 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
Taylor Hucks
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wow-books
I read the Amazon Kindle version of Faithful Elephants, which was published in 2015 although the original was published in 1951. Yukio Tsuchyia tells the story of three elephants residing in Tokyo's Ueno Zoo during a war. Told as an informational text, this book takes readers through similar emotions the zookeepers felt when they were ordered to get rid of all the animals at the zoo because the bombs raining on Tokyo could put the city at harm if the animals were to get out. I believe this text ...more
Jenni Davis
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: elm-335
Informational Text:
I haven’t had much experience with informational texts before, so I was intrigued to read this book! Although the story was heartbreaking, I absolutely loved this book and the illustrations in it!

Faithful Elephants is told by a zookeeper at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo. During the time that this story was written, Japan was involved in World War II. Bombs were being dropped on Tokyo and the people who lived there were worried that the bombs would fall on the Ueno Zoo and set the an
Daniel Herrera
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Genre: Nonfiction, Folktale, Historical Fiction

Faithful Elephants tells the true story of a war-stricken Tokyo and a zoo that is ordered to kill all of their animals to protect the people and the city. The city want to prevent the animals from escaping if bombs happen to fall in the zoo. The story focuses on three elephants and their trainers and the sad decision they have to make because of the army's orders.

This book could be used for lessons on war and the impact it has on people, animals, a
Carson Anderson
Oct 13, 2015 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
Mar 07, 2016 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
Feb 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Meghan Schroeder
Nov 07, 2015 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.
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.
Morgen Shambaugh
I do not particularly like this book, but I would consider reading it to my 6th graders if we were learning about the effects of war, especially those that are not always discussed. This book shows children that even animals had to die for war. The elephants in this story are put down, one by one, and it is extremely sad. It takes place in Japan and gives a very unique perspective on the effects of war.
Lin Lin
Dec 26, 2012 added it
Shelves: peace
Three elephants had to be put to death during WWII in case bombs killed them in Tokyo. While trainers were reluctant to kill them, the elephants were left to starve to death. At their death, zookeepers and animals trainers cried for the end of the war and cried for peace. A sad story to share with children. When I read this with my son, we both cried.
Aug 01, 2009 rated it did not like it
I guess it depends on who you are reading this book to. A teacher told me it was a great book to read 2nd graders so I went out and bought it. When I read it myself, I was horrified! It is a very sad, depressing book. I would not read it to any children under the age of 16? I no longer own this book, it depresses me to even look at the cover.
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Although it embodies the often unnoticed victims of war, and the absolute idiocy of war in general, it was a terribly depressing book. I made the mistake of beginning to read it to my children! Bad idea!
Kate Matson
Apr 05, 2016 rated it liked it
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!!!!!?????
Dec 03, 2010 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 rated it it was amazing
The tragic, and often ignored, story of what happens to animals during war.
Dec 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pbnf-500
Terribly, terribly sad.
Jarod Conroy
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
It was a bery interesting book.
Cassandra Coburn
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think that this book is a lovely bridge into a historical topic that can be rather sensitive for many readers. It is interesting to note that the book is a true story and translated work by Japanese author Yukio Tscuhiya. The story’s cause-and-effect timeline begins in modern-day Tokyo, when an unnamed narrator approaches a zoo official tending to a quiet memorial. There, the story of the zoo’s pre-World War II creatures (and the three elephants John, Tonky, and Wanly in particular) takes shap ...more
Taylor Hartman
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emily Siniard
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Students 10 and above!
In this book, a zoo keeper is explaining to children about why there is a monument in the middle of a zoo for the elephants. The story then goes back to WWII in Japan about how the dangerous animals were killed in case bombs fell on the zoo and let out those animals. The zoo keepers had to watch their beloved elephants die. That is why the monument was left and underneath the elephants are buried.

I gave this book 4 stars because of the beautiful, but sad story. I thought it was a great culture b
Halie Crook
Apr 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
War has broken out and Japan is under attack by bombs. The Tokyo zoo is afraid that an explosion could release dangerous animals out into the city. Knowing this, they decide to put all of the animals down. When they get to the elephants they find that they are too smart to eat the poison and their skin is too thick to have it injected. The zookeepers must decide what further they will take to solve this issue.

After reading this book, I can assure you that I am in tears. While the story was trag
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Faithful Elephants by Yukio Tsuchiya is a story about the impact of war on zoo animals. A zookeeper at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo narrates the story about the fate of three elephants during World War II. Faithful Elephants is a powerful message about the inhumanity of war, the need for prevention of wars, and the ability for the human spirit to seek and establish peace. This story is a reminder that we must learn from the past in order to prevent war in the future. This book provides a powerful view of t ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Copyright: 1951
Number of Pages: unnumbered
Book Format: paperback
Reading Level: grades K-2
Genre: Historical Fiction
Lit Requirement: Historical Fiction

Summary: At the Ueno zoo, the zookeepers are faced with the decision of killing all of the large, potentiality harmful animals in order to protect humans if the zoo was hit with a bomb during the war. The Zoo keepers killed the elephants by making them starve. Eventually all three elephants die and they are buried with a monument for them inside the
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