What the Elephant Heard


From herds trekking over the plains to the waterhole, to gazelle and zebra, Grandma remembers, What the Elephant Heard. Thereafter, she recalls her great-grandma, who tells of machinery sounds that bring the trains across the savannah.

There were saws felling trees to create cattle farms. The elephants were fenced off from their paths to the water holes. Thereafter, Great-Grandma and Grandma hear the buzz of aeroplanes and roar of tourist vehicles. Then they hear the crack of the poacher’s gunshot…

Can they find the paths to the waterhole? ‘The land is dust-dry and the sun bakes the ground’. Will the hear the burst of thunder and rain?

In rhyming text, Charlotte Guillain contemplates What the Elephant Heard over generations. The deft word craft is poignant and disconcerting. Meanwhile, Sam Usher’s pictures are huge, dramatic and wonderful. Bookwagon recommends What the Elephant Saw to readers at home, and school.

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What the Elephant Heard

Charlotte Guillain and Sam Usher

(Welbeck Publishing)– hardback

Grandmother leads the elephants to water in What the Elephant Heard. It seems she is following the path of other grandmothers as she remembers the stories passed on. What’s more, she tells of times ‘of huge zebra herds‘ and ‘the roaring of lions, the bee-eater’s cry’. However everything changed for the herds when ‘strange humans and new sounds rang out;/ a clanking of metal, spades scraping, fierce shouts’. Furthermore, their machinery ‘shrieked like hyenas as they clattered by’.
This ancient ‘great-grandma‘ knew everywhere ‘on the plains’ where the ‘wildebeest followed the rains‘ to long ago ‘places where water would flow’. However, by the time grandma was born there were planes in the sky and tourist cars. Then again there were grasslands ‘thronged with gazelles and giraffe‘. Yet as she grew older, she heard the buzz of saws felling trees alongside the lowing of cattle who populated the water holes. What’s more, these cattle were fenced off. However the most terrifying sounds were those of gunshot that ‘echoed around‘. Then the elephants awaited the sound of thunder and rain that might signal water….
Charlotte Guillain invited us to contemplate What Did the Tree See? Now she takes us to the savannah to a herd of elephant reminiscing the sounds of their history. What the Elephant Heard is a moving, rhyming, descriptive non-fiction picture book. Sam Usher’s illustrations are evocative and glorious. Bookwagon recommends this superb title to readers at home and school.



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