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Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue

Book Synopsis

When a world war comes to Myanmar (Burma), one special elephant becomes a hero. As people are forced to leave their home in the Burmese jungle, Bandoola, his keeper Po Toke and war veteran James Howard Williams (Aka Elephant Bill), undertake a journey that will test their courage, taking trust, understanding and bravery to the very limit. Together, they lead a group of 53 elephants and over 200 refugees to safety, scaling 6000ft mountains as they trek from Myanmar to northern India.

In this moving tale based on a true story, award-winning William Grill’s stunning illustrations show the majesty of Myanmar’s forests and mountains, the backdrop to a heart-warming tale about empathy between humans and animals, and the strength that can arise from working together when the world is full of danger.

Our Review Panel says...

This is the true story of Bandoola – an Asian timber elephant of Myanmar, which was for a time a colony of the British Empire. The story focuses on Bandoola’s adult life around the time of World War 2, when elephants were used to help move and haul hardwood teak. The elephants at this time were looked after ‘Oozies’; men who cared for the elephants, but perhaps in a way that didn’t always show these majestic and intelligent animals the respect that they deserved.

Things changed when James Howard Williams arrived to work for the timber company, and soon saw the true nature of the hard-working elephants. He began to find different ways to work with all the elephants, developing mutual respect between man and beast, leading him to be known as ‘Elephant Bill’. World War 2 eventually arrived In Myanmar, and the people of the country were forced to leave. Bandoola and Williams led 53 elephants and over 200 refugees to safety in Northern India, on an unbelievable and treacherous journey that saw them scale mountains and tested them to the limit. This incredible journey showed an astonishing trust between humans and animals, with a remarkable level of understanding and bravery that saw them reach their destination in one piece.

Having enjoyed William Grill’s compelling re-telling of Shackleton’s Journey in his wonderfully sensitive yet engaging style, it was a joy to have the opportunity to read another. Grill has a talent for finding incredible stories; stories with historical importance and that show the best (and sometimes the worst) of humanity. There are clear strong themes of conservation and the environmental impact of human behaviours, along with reminding us of the utter respect we need to have for all animals, particularly as we learn of the dwindling numbers of Asian elephants still living in the wild. At the heart of the story is the legacy of one special elephant. Bandoola had a lasting effect on Williams, who through his time with the elephants learnt that humans could live side by side with animals, based on respect and understanding.

‘Bandoola’ is visually and literarily compelling, powerful, and thought-provoking; providing a new angle among the range of WW2 book options.

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Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue - Teaching Notes

A resource pack provided by the publisher to accompany the book Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue.

Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue

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