Animal stories are always popular with children and Seree’s Story delivers a powerful and important message about animal cruelty and exploitation.
Seree loved life with her herd; days were filled with playing in mud, squirting water, munching on luscious green leaves and bright yellow bananas, and walking with her relatives. But then the poachers came and she was forced to work in the circus. Life was miserable. Performing three times a day and living in chains was no life for an elephant. Seree dreamed of better days, of seeing her mother again. When three strangers appear in the middle of the night, Seree is captured once again. But something is different, these people are kind and gentle. Will they help her find freedom and her family…
Irma Gold is an ambassador for Save the Elephant Foundation and her passion for elephants, their welfare and the need to raise their often disgusting treatment trumpets loudly in this moving picture book. Whilst not based on any particular elephant or actual event, Seree’s Story is a very real tale that raises issues around conservation, animal welfare and the use of animals for entertainment.
Emotion, much of which is heart-wrenching and upsetting, pours off of the pages of this lusciously illustrated and simply told story. The images tell more than words ever could; the happiness of the herd enjoying life together, the fear of the elephants when the poaches arrive, the heartbreaking moment of trunks touching for ‘one final kiss’, the loneliness of a shackled Seree surrounded by boxes and concrete, the overwhelming relief at being free from the circus. Much of the story is saddening and whilst Seree ultimately has a happy ending with her family thanks to her nighttime rescuers, the sad truth is that this will not be the case for most elephants who find themselves employed for the benefit of others.
An abundance of eye-opening and challenging back-matter further raises the plight of elephants both in the wild and captivity. Not all is without hope though and knowing that there are some organisations and people in the world who are doing good and who are working to protect animals who are unable to protect themselves is heart-warming. But more must be done and we all can help by only visiting ethical sanctuaries when on holiday and not funding animal ‘tourist’ attractions.
Given the subject matter and powerful artwork it is a picture book that would be best suited to slightly older children as it may bring distress to younger readers. It is sure to elicit strong feelings in many and provides a brilliant and thought-provoking platform for discussions around animal welfare and our roles and responsibilities to prevent animal cruelty in all its forms.
With huge thanks to Walker Books for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.
Recommended for 7+.