Travels with Tarra & Just For Elephants by Carol Buckley - Book Review, Teaching Support and Fabulous Giveaway

I don't usually go into the personal realm on Reading Rumpus as I consider this a professional site where teachers and parents can find good books and reading ideas. However, when Travels With Tarra and Just for Elephants came to me from publisher Tilbury House (a publishing house I’ve had happy experiences with before), I felt a need to explain why I was so touched by these titles.

Those of you who know me personally, know that my daughter is currently in veterinary medical school, so the subject of animal care and protection
is very close to my heart right now (even though we've always joked about where she got her love of beasts from as I'm generally scared to death of any animal!) What you may not know is that I recently lost my aunt and namesake. She was a huge supporter of animal care and rescue.

So I'm very excited to offer Reading Rumpus readers not only the review and teaching activities for Travels With Tarra and Just for Elephants, but also a contest to win a book stamped by elephant Tarra!

Travels With Tarra and Just for Elephants are two books that educators or home school parents would be well served to begin units on elephant study, friendship or even Africa. Not only are the books engaging, but the supporting materials are amazing. The Elephant Sanctuary website has a downloadable K-3 curriculum guide of 35 pages and a 4-8 guide of 72 pages. Both feature activities and discussion points covering health, social studies, math and language arts.

Travels With Tarra tells the nonfiction story of how elephant Tarra and her trainer Carol became friends and built an amazing elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. It’s for independent readers, but would also work very well as a read aloud for younger students.

Just for Elephants tells the nonfiction story of how Shirley comes to live at the elephant sanctuary and makes friends with Jenny. This book follows a picture book format and is accessible to all ages with teacher support. I had an issue with the sluggish narrative choice (part omniscient and part first person), but this minor writing stylistic choice shouldn’t overshadow the benefits of the story.

Most importantly for YOU: The publisher is offering Blog Tour Prizes !!!!
- Copy of Just for Elephants signed by Sanctuary co-founder Carol Buckley
- Copy of Travels With Tarra signed by Carol and stamped by Tarra the Elephant
- Package of Tilbury House Animal Books— The Goat Lady, Thanks to the Animals, and an advance copy of Bear-ly There
Simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post with your email address so we can get in contact with you if you win!
The publisher will draw 3 lucky winners from all of those who comment on the tour posts from Sept. 1-9, and announce the winners on Sept 10th. Sorry, but they only are able to ship to the US/Canada.

Other stops on this tour are:
Tuesday, Sept. 1: Reading Rumpus (you are here)
Wednesday, Sept. 2: Sacred Elephants
Thursday, Sept. 3: Read These Books and Use Them!
Friday, Sept. 4: Maw Books
Saturday, Sept. 5: Shelf Elf
Sunday, Sept. 6: Bees Knees
Monday, Sept. 7: Through The Looking Glass
Tuesday, Sept. 8: Bri Meets Books

But even if you don't win, think about buying these books because Tilbury House Publishing is offering some wonderful news: "...we're also doing our part to support the Sanctuary, offering a "Trunk Sale" promotion from now through December 31. For every 100 copies of the elephant books that we sell, we will sponsor an item from the Sanctuary's wish list (from 100 lb batches of peanut butter to land for the elephants to roam)...." You can buy the books by clicking on the titles above or by clicking on these links: Travels With Tarra / Just for Elephants

-------------------- Teaching Resources --------------------

Travels With Tarra: Genre: Nonfiction. Age: Young Adult, but can be read aloud with support. Pages: 40.

Themes: Science & Nature, Friendship, Care of Animals
Thank You to Tilbury House Publishing
Date: November 2006.
ISBN-10: 0884482413 / ISBN-13: 978-0884482413

Just for Elephants: Genre: Nonfiction. Age: 9-12 but can be read aloud with support. Pages: 32.
Themes: Science & Nature, Friendship, Perseverance, Care of Animals
Thank You to Tilbury House Publishing Date: July 2002.
ISBN-10: 0884482839 / ISBN-13: 978-0884482833

Teaching Support:
Classrooms can sign on to The Elephant Sanctuary website to take a webcam tour or teachers can arrange teleconferences! I perused the pdf files of the extensive curriculum support, but didn’t find any specific reading comprehension questions nor vocabulary (although there is a glossary, it’s not specific to the book).

Reading Activities for Travels With Tarra: The pages are not numbered so vocabulary and comprehension questions are chronological.

Asian, Burma, trumpeting, mascot, prehistoric, wooly mammoth, security, investigate, exotic, limp, permanent, nurse, sensitive, bonded, socializing, wallow, whisk, grind, agility, audience, curtsy, bellowed, sequels, squirmed, prop crew, chirped, accompanied, captive, content, instincts, antics, uninhabited, buffer, pampering

Comprehension Questioning:
1. Why was the baby elephant taken from its mother? ( a man bought her from an animal broker to be the mascot of his tire store)
2. How much did the baby elephant weigh? (700 pounds)
3. Why does the baby elephant run back & forth? (she thinks the children are playing a game with her)
4. Why do baby elephants scream? (to bring their family to them to protect them)
5. Why does the author think the baby elephant must have missed her mother? (because in the wild, baby elephants are never left alone)
6. How did the author first meet Tarra? (she saw a man walking a tiny a baby elephant down her street)
7. Why does the baby elephant grab Bob’s hand? (she wants to suck his thumb until she falls asleep)
8. Why does the author spend every moment with the baby elephant? (possible answers include: she is her friend, she’s interested in elephants, she likes her, she wants to take care of her)
9. Why do elephants throw wood shavings on herself? (they protect against insects and sunburn)
10. Why does the baby elephant grab the author’s nose? (that’s what elephants do when they greet each other)
11. How does the author learn how smart the baby elephant is? (by watching her play)
12. How does the elephant grow up to love dogs? (because she made friends with the author’s dog, Tasha)
13. What is the elephants name now? (Tarra) What did it used to be? (Fluffie) Which name do you prefer? (all answers acceptable)
14. Where did the author and Tarra get a job? (a them park)
15. Which animals fascinated Tarra the most? (the dolphins)
16. Why does the author decide to take Tarra on the road? (she thought traveling would be good for them)
17. How would the author know that Tarra was asleep? (the trailer would stop rocking and she could hear Tara snoring)
18. Why does the author put skates on Tarra? (because Tarra was agile and liked to play)
19. Tarra becomes quite famous. How do you think she felt about this? (all answers with examples from text- she squels, she chtters in excitement, seems to feed off the excitement…)
20. Why does the author decide Tarra needs another change? (she seems bored with skating)
21. The author takes a job at a zoo in Canada, but she has to leave there. Why? (the other elephants kept chasing and picking on Tarra)
22. What happens at the Wisconsin zoo? (Tarra makes friends with Rasha)
23. Why do Tarra and Rasha go to an animal park in Canada? (to have a baby)
24. Why doesn’t Rasha stay there? (the zoo could no longer afford two elephants)
25. What happens to Tarra and her baby? (she has a baby, it dies and she mourns with the author and Scott)
26. How does Tarra help the author and Scott? (she kept her sense of humor, covered them with hay, and was excited to see them each morning)
27. What is the author’s dream? (a place for elephants from circuses and zoos to roam free)
28. What does Tarra think of the sanctuary? ( she must like it because she dances, chirps and trumpets before going off to explore it)
29. Once the sanctuary is built, what happens next? (sequencing – Barbara comes, needy Jenny, Shirley, Bunny, Sissy & Winkie, they get along well and act like a family
30. How does the author know Tarra will be happy? (she loves the attention of the older elephants because she is the youngest and they all care for her)

Reading Activities for Just for Elephants: The pages are not numbered so vocabulary and comprehension questions are chronological.

Sanctuary, zookeeper, patience, cab, roam, familiar, recognized, trumpeted, affectionately, acres, herds, graze, pastures, eagerly, ventured, redtail hawks, screeching, persimmons, river cane, china grass, troughs

Comprehension Questioning:
1. Why did some of the zookeepers cry? (they will miss their old elephant friend)
2. Why might an elephant need a special truck? (all answers – size, weight, air holes, etc…)
3. Why did the circus decide to sell Shirley (she broke her leg and could no longer perform tricks)
4. Why did the elephants at the sanctuary reach out their trunks to Shirley? (that is how elephants greet each other)
5. Why was Shirley kept in a separate area of the barn? (elephants sometimes need time to get used to other elephants)
6. Why does Solomon, the zookeeper, have tears in his eyes? (he has been Shirley’s keeper for many years and was sad to leave her)
7. What happens when Shirley sees Jenny (sequencing – Jenny walks right up to Shirley, she reaches through the fence, she tries to climb the bars, Shirley recognizes Jenny & they trumpet and cry big tears, she tries to open the gate, the keepers open the gate, the two elephants stand together and link trunks)
8. How do Jenny and Shirley begin their first day together? (bathe in the creek)
9. What does Jenny do when Shirley takes a nap? (stands over her in a protective way)
10. What do the other elephants think of Shirley? (they begin to make her a friend)
11. How do female elephants live in the wild? (in herds with their relatives)
12. What happened at the pond? (sequencing – elephants stood at edge and splashed water on their backs, then they step into the pond ankle deep, then they go in further, then they dunk their faces, then they spray each other, they play elephant games, they have a wonderful time)
13. Why do elephants cover their skin with mud and dirt/ (to protect against insects and sunburn)
14. How do you think Shirley feels about her new home? (all acceptable)

Links for further support:

The Elephant Sanctuary: The site offers too many wonderful wonders to list. Just GO Here to See.

Releasing September 8th: Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends, further adventures of Tarra and her dog friend Bella.

National Geographic Kids will feature an article on The Elephant Sanctuary in October, with more content on their website as well as another book giveaway.

Time For Kids article here

PBS Nature article here

CBS did a feature on The Elephant Sanctuary and plans to do a follow-up this fall. You can subscribe to The Elephant Sanctuary's YouTube channel HERE.

Wouldn't adopting an elephant, or something of the like, be such a great classroom activity?
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for

Bookmark and Share