The Elephant Keeper

Hardcover Jacket
978-1-77138-561-9 | Oct 3, 2017 List Price:
USD $18.99, CAD $19.99

4-color • 8 x 10 • 48 pages
Grades: 3 To 6 / Ages: 8 to 12

When teenaged Aaron discovers a baby elephant nearly drowning in the swimming pool at the guest lodge where he works, he acts quickly and manages to save the animal just in time. The rescued baby is brought to an elephant orphanage for care, and given the name Zambezi. Though Aaron has been raised to think of elephants as dangerous to humans and their crops, on a visit to the orphanage, he learns that illegal poaching of these animals is threatening them with extinction, and the orphanage is trying to prevent that from happening. And when Aaron is offered a job at the orphanage, his life is suddenly transformed, as he discovers a bond of friendship with Zambezi and his lifelong vocation as an elephant keeper.

Inspired by the real-life Aaron and Zambezi at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery in Zambia, author Margriet Ruurs has created a moving story that powerfully demonstrates the plight of endangered animals everywhere. Pedro Covo's stunning illustrations add a level of depth and haunting beauty to the story and the animals. Three nonfiction spreads interspersed throughout the story explore facts about elephants, ivory poaching and elephant orphanages. The back of the book contains ways children can help endangered wildlife. Useful tools include a table of contents and a glossary. This beautifully illustrated nonfiction book spans the curriculum, from life sciences to global awareness to environmental stewardship. It also offers a unique perspective for character education lessons on empathy, caring and responsibility on a larger scale.


Available in print:

Buy from Buy from Indigo Buy from


Buy from Kobo Buy from iBooks Buy from Kindle Buy from Google Play

Educational Resources


Habitats and communities
Language Arts


Lexile Level



elephant   character education   friendship   courage   orphan   rescue   cohabitation   poaching   elephant orphanage   elephant keeper   Africa   Zambezi River   Zambia

Reviews & Awards


“A moving and unforgettable true story …”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review, August 2017

“… Ruurs’s narrative builds a strong emotional connection between readers and the subject — this is a tale designed to pull at the heartstrings of readers.”
School Library Journal, September 2017

“… heartfelt, sensitive, and inspiring.”
Booklist, October 2017

“Ruurs’ book gives compelling insight into the efforts to preserve a unique and appealing species and of the attempts to mitigate the threats from increasing human encounters.”
CM Magazine, November 2017


2019 Silver Birch Express Award, Ontario Library Association, Nominated
2019 Just One More Page! Recommendation List, WSRA Children’s Literature Committee, Listed
2019 Diamond Willow Award, Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Awards, Finalist
2018 Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street College, Winner
2018 Teachers’ Choices List, International Literacy Association, Winner
2018 Best Books for Kids & Teens, Starred Selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre, Winner
2018 Skipping Stones Honor List, Skipping Stones Magazine, Winner
2018 Chocolate Lily Award, Short-listed
2017 Eureka! Gold Award, California Reading Association, Winner
2017 OLA Best Bets, Ontario Library Association, Winner