"The Day of the Elephant"
by Barbara Ker Wilson,
The Day of the Elephant is set in Thailand and is based on reports of heart-warming incidents that occurred during the tsunami that hit the coastlines of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives on Boxing Day 2004.
The story centres around the elephant, Mae Jabu, who visits a small village to entertain the villagers. The village children are particularly excited about Mae Jabu’s visit as they all love elephants and are hoping that she will dance for them.
As Mae Jabu approaches the village she appears restless and bellows loudly. Her keeper is concerned by her unusual behaviour, and as Mae Jabu is led to a grassy clearing the children become aware that something very odd is occurring down on the shoreline. Before they even know what is happening, Mae Jabu gently lifts a small group of children on to her back and then heads for higher ground with her keeper running anxiously beside her.
The wave rolls in but the children are saved by the extraordinary efforts of Mae Jabu, whose ‘sixth sense’ anticipated the disaster.
Royalties from the sale of this book will be donated by the author, illustrator and publisher to assist the Asian tsunami aid effort.
About the Author
Barbara Ker Wilson has written some 40 fiction and non-fiction books for children of all ages, including several collections of folktales from Asia and Europe, which have been published in the UK, USA, Australia, NZ, Japan and PNG. Barbara has worked as a children’s book editor and is now a freelance editor, mentor and writer.
About the Illustrator
Frané Lessac is an author/illustrator of international renown who has 20 published books to her credit. Frané was born in the USA, but spent many years living on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, where she began her career as a painter. Capturing folk cultures and their heritage on canvas is one of Frané’s particular passions.
For more information about Frané and her work, please refer to her website: www.franelessac.com
After Reading the Story
Information for Teachers
Please note : In responding to a traumatic event such as the Boxing Day tsunami, supportive and meaningful approaches might include:
Taking the lead from children and providing information at a level appropriate to their interest level and understanding
Promoting a sense of security and optimism through the maintenance of regular routines and activities
Being sensitive to children’s cues and taking their opinions seriously
Focusing on positive stories in the media and redevelopment projects.
Questions for Discussion
A. The Text
B. The Illustrations
C. Further Activities
The ArtsPastel or Crayon with Dye Wash – Elephants in the Jungle Materials needed: crayons, large sheets of paper, water colour wash or dye. Introduce the lesson by discussing elephant characteristics and elements of the jungle flora and fauna. Encourage the children to fill the entire page focusing on the dense layers of the jungle environment before adding their elephant. Once the children have completed their picture using overlaid and mixed crayon, and once the entire page is filled, ask them to apply a water colour wash as the final coat Weaving
This activity can be a class project or a project for a group of up to four children. It is best undertaken across a number of sessions.
Materials needed: chicken wire, approximately one metre per group.
On a piece of paper the same size as their chicken wire, children draw their elephant and then the wire is taped over the top of the drawing onto the floor. The children then use different strips of fabric to weave the design of their elephant into the chicken wire.
Make a Papier-mâché Elephant
Materials needed: torn newspaper strips, old phone books, wallpaper paste or PVA glue and water (3 parts water, 1 part PVA), boxes or balloons, toilet roll tubes, scissors, masking tape, brushes and paint.
Invite children to make their elephant using either boxes or inflated balloons and tape. Once satisfied with their design, children can start to add 5 x 7 cm strips of newspaper dipped in glue. (Newsprint must be liberally coated with paste.) Be careful that children cover all parts of their elephant and joints with paper strips. The final layer should be newsprint as this provides a good surface for painting; leave to dry thoroughly. Give the elephants a base coat or two of white paint and then allow the children to paint the final coat in any colour or design of their choosing.
Sample Papier Mache elephants: http://www.greet.bham.sch.uk/img89.jpg
Ocean Wave Simulation
This activity will demonstrate how an ocean wave is formed and grows larger.
Materials needed: 500 ml plastic bottle, 150 ml water, 150 ml vegetable oil, blue food coloring.
Fill the plastic bottle with the water. Put three to four drops of the blue food coloring into the oil. Pour the oil into the bottle. The oil should float on top of the water. Shift the bottle from left to right, simulating an ocean wave. Notice how the wave grows larger from one end of the bottle to the other.
This activity will simulate how the ‘small’ beginnings of a tsunami can turn into a giant wave.
Materials needed: bucket, water, small pebble, baseball bat or stick.
Fill the bucket about 3/4 full of water. Put the bucket of water on a flat surface and let the water become still. Drop a small pebble into the middle of the water and watch the waves form. What happens as the waves travel farther from where the pebble was dropped?
For another experiment, after the water has become still, strike the bottom of the bucket with the baseball bat or stick. Are ripples formed in the water? Are the ripples smaller or larger on the side of the bucket where the stick hit?
Background Information for Teachers
Tsunamis are not tidal waves. They are a series of waves of extremely long wavelength and period. They are not associated with the tides. Tsunamis are primarily associated with earthquakes in oceanic and coastal regions. They can travel virtually unnoticed through the open ocean because the wave height may be only 30 centimetres. There is no truly reliable early detection system for tsunamis yet. Tsunamis can be local, regional or ocean-wide, depending on the size of the waves and the area affected. When approaching a shore, tsunami wave heights can reach 30 metres or more.
The Boxing Day Tsunami – 26 December 2004
The Earth’s crust is comprised of a number of rigid ‘plates’ that move slowly in different directions. Where different plates meet and interact, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common. Around northern Sumatra, the Australian and Indian plates and the Burma and Sunda plates interact to form the Sunda trench.
Normally, the Indian plate moves at about 6 cm per year relative to the Burma plate, but on 26 December 2004, at 11.59 Eastern Standard Summer Time (ESST), a large earthquake, measuring 9.0 on the open ended Richter Scale occurred, caused by the release of stresses that develop as the Indian plate dives under the Burma plate. The uplift of one plate over the other displaced a huge amount of water, starting the tsunami. Approximately 1200 km of the plate boundary slipped with an average displacement (vertical movement) of about 15 metres.
Animals Sixth Sense
For a wonderful article about animals’ sixth sense during the Boxing Day tsunami, please read ‘Did Animals sense Tsunami was Coming?’ by Maryann Mott for National Geographic News, 4 January 2005.
For further information on animal behaviour please refer to: News stories from the BBC and Reuters about animal behaviour prior to and during the tsunami.
Nature in Action – Powerful Waves, D. M. Souza, ISBN: 0876146612
Natural Disasters – Tidal Waves and Flooding, Jane Walker, ISBN: 0749607602
High Interest Books – Tsunamis, Luke Thompson, ISBN: 0516235680
Furious Earth : The Science and Nature of Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis, Ellen J. Prager (editor), ISBN: 0071351612
Web References for Teachers