I have always liked elephants–big gentle creatures with a long fat tail called a trunk that sticks out in front of their face. This story takes place during something called World War II in a country called Germany, and a town called Dresden. I learned that humans like to fight more than cats…and they use big metal objects that go boom and that drop bombs on other humans. Go figure. At least when cats fight they only use their claws.
Well it seems there’s this family and the mom of the family (the dad is off in place called the Russia fighting other humans) is a zookeeper who looks after a young elephant, named Marlene. . She has two children, a boy and girl. Well there are rumors that their village of Dresden will be bombed so she gets permission to take the elephant to live in their backyard. What fun! Well guess what? The rumors turn out to be true and bombs start falling, and she the kids start running with a big ole elephant. Pretty decent humans if you ask me…because lord knows they sure attracted a lot of attention with an elephant lumbering beside them.
They run and run and run. They run for shelter to a relative’s abandoned farm house where they meet the “enemy,” a Canadian airman whose plane was shot down. But he turns out to be a really nice guy. But soon they must leave, so they run away from the roads, going through the woods, and Marlene has the greatest time frolicking in the streams and among the leaves. They run during the night and away from the Russians who are chasing them. They ran through rain, and mud, and frost, and Marlene, the gentle giant, keeps their spirits up, plodding along with them.
Finally, they run to a large house, where a “countess” (I think a countess is some kind of special human), gives them shelter along with dozens of other humans who are running. But they have to leave the house and run again, and this time they take along a children’s choir on their journey, the kids taking turns riding on top of Marlene’s back as they run away from the enemy.
But Marlene is so used of running, that one day when she runs into some tanks (tanks are big lumbering hulks of metal on wheels with a couple of humans inside driving them), she just keeps running and leaves her human friends behind.
This was a pretty cool book, and fortunately, the human author made Marlene, the elephant, the star of the story–as well he should. Because really the elephant saved the humans from death, keeping their spirits and protecting them as they ran from all sorts of enemies. And what happened to Marlene you ask? She finally stopped running when she joined a circus, making humans laugh as she had always done.