Reviews /

The Elephant in the Room

Authored by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Published by Bonnier Books UK

The Elephant in the Room is a beautiful, moving tale all about friendship, equality and the beauty in respecting and reconnecting with nature.

The story centres around Sila, a young girl, born in Oregon with Turkish parents. Her mother, complains about blatant unfairness of pay for men and women in her place of work and finds herself sent back to Istanbul under an immigration investigation. The story opens on 6th September with Sila finding out she has to say goodbye to her mother for a while. Soon after, Sila and her father Alp get called to a local large house with a wall enclosure for Alp to fix the owner’s truck. The owner is an older widow called Gio. Gio tells Sila his life story at which point they connect by the fact that Gio’s late wife taught Sila at infant school. This then forges a friendship that will transform all of their lives.

Gio has amassed a lot of wealth by winning the lottery. He chooses to spend his wealth on the purchase of an Asian elephant, Veda. At the same time, Sila builds a friendship with Mateo, a boy in her class with autism due to them both being sent out of class once a week for a pilot programme called ‘pairing’ for children who are quiet or feeling socially isolated in the classroom. Sila and Mateo become great friends and embark on a journey of caring for Veda and the animals who follow on Gio’s land.

This takes them on a journey of discovery, unravelling and character-building. Sila and Mateo both show great resilience and strength. They are determined, hard-working and show great care for the animals, in particular Veda. There is a connection between Sila and Veda, as Veda was taken from her mother in the circus as a young elephant. Mateo’s mother is a lawyer who is able to intervene with Sila’s mother’s case and challenge the grounds of her deportation.

The reader is taken on a real journey of friendship and humanity. The main characters in the book are all joined by a sense of being alone or ‘othered’. Mateo is aware of how other children treat him because of his autism, Sila is alone and missing her mother, Alp is doing work he is way overqualified for and Gio is widowed and misses his wife dearly. There is a great sense of hope that arises from this novel and it is highly recommended it finds a place in any upper KS2 classroom.