Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue has a mixture of styles. I mean, while this is a non-fiction story about James Howard Williams and an elephant name Bandoola, it is also written as a fiction story. There are facts about elephants, what they eat, etc., as well as what is used and done of the teak plantation.
The story is a bit controversial as it does depict the fact elephants in Myanmar were used to harvest the teak for sale around the world. It mentions some of the ways they treated the elephants. And how there are still elephants working for humans today, not to mention the years of poaching. However, everything is done tastefully, and no image is gratuitous. Plus, the main story is not about the negatives, and even counters it with how Williams and a keeper would humanly train the animals; ways still used today.
The main part of the story is how Williams, the elephant keeper Po Toke and an elephant named Bandoola helped the people of the lumber company and village escape the horrors of war. Of course, first the elephants helped the war effort by building bridges and getting to places trucks could not, but when the Japanese were close, Williams was told to leave. But he could not leave his friends behind. The result was an almost month-long trip of people, elephants, soldiers, and Williams walking from Myanmar to India.
However, sometimes the story is slow. William Grill obviously put much effort in research these historical figures and events, but I think all the information they found might be here! It also can be hard to read as the facts can be planked on a couple of pages in the middle, stopping the story flow. Still, the story is worth the break. The illustrations, however, are an acquired taste.
They are cartoonish, almost childlike. They are simplistic and variety with colors. They are reminiscent of old-school stories I had from the fifties and sixties that were my grandparents and parents’ books. They are not for the modern reader who is used to the flashy colors, extreme details, and a polished look of today. There is little in traditional action, but there is an adventure. It could work in an older classroom if learning about animals, elephants, or Asian nations. There is also history of the country itself that could be used in the classroom setting, such as how Myanmar was Burma, not to mention the World War Two connection.