Nobody does non-fiction like William Grill. His books are things of sheer beauty with the illustrations having a vintage quality and the attention to historical detail bewitching. Previous work includes Shackleton’s Journey, which is widely used in schools due to it being excellent, and Bandoola continues in this splendid manner.
Although William Grill is an expert in presenting the facts about a subject, be it the differences between African and Asian elephants, their cultural history and interactions with mankind or the history of Myanmar, this book sings because of the relationships at the heart of the story. The respect that James Howard Williams has for the elephant trainers, the awe he has for the animals themselves and the central relationship he has with Bandoola, creates a connection with the reader.
I adore books like this that don’t focus on a period of history in a clear cut manner, but more explores the lives of those who live through these times that often overlap. Both World Wars underpin events in the story, which allows you to look at cause and effect, as well as how the British Empire changed the face of the globe. Books that make you feel smarter are always a good thing!
Now for the teacher bit. The theme of conservation and animal rights runs right through the book, explaining in detail how humans have had a negative impact on the habitat of the elephants. What I find fascinating is the question of whether it is better for the elephants to be used to transport logs, or leave it to mechanical means. Questions like these are perfect for a citizenship/PHSE lesson and like all great authors, William Grill doesn’t answer it, preferring to leave the thinking up to the reader.
A beauty for the eyes, and a feast for the mind – a perfect non-fiction book for adults and children alike.