Why was two-year-old Nandu being protected by a pack of wild dogs when Devi Kali (an elephant) found him? Why would the head of one of the king’s elephant stables take him in? Why would a retired, expatriate teacher care so much about him? Or a holy man?
Nandu, it’s clear, has something special. It could be his connection to animals or the way he navigates and understands the wildness around him. The world of humans can be frightening and dangerous – bandits, false accusations, politics – but the world of the wild is one he understands. It’s easy to see why he’d prefer life with his elephants over dealing with people who cheat and lie or only look out for themselves.
We’re lucky Nandu’s story was shared with us. It’s clear from the author notes and praise that Eric Dinerstein, who spent years in Nepal researching animals, has a lot of other things going on. We’re lucky, because Nandu’s story is one about a child bridging the old world and the new, learning how to adapt, figuring out what he cares about, and creating his own family. It’s a story that speaks to many kids of all kinds of backgrounds in a quiet and powerful way.
What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein