A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk
By Jan L. Coates
(Red Deer Press, Paperback, 9780889954519, 291pp.)
Publication Date: September 2010
List Price: $12.95*
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Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medalist, 2011
2011 Skipping Stones Honor Award winner
On the 2011 USBBY Outstanding International Books honor list
Ann Conner Brimer Award for Children's Literature finalist, 2011
2011 Snow Willow Award nominee
A 2012 "Woozles' Battle of the Books" Elementary List Title
A 2012 "Woozles' Battle of the Books" Teen List Title
When civil war strikes Jacob Deng's Southern Sudanese village, seven-year-old Jacob embarks on a seemingly endless journey that tests his courage and determination. His wise mama tells him that he must one day go to school to seek answers and help carve a better future for his people. Wadeng is a Dinka word meaning "look to the future, it will be better; follow your dreams," and it, along with his precious "Mama stone," becomes Jacob's talisman of hope, helping him remain strong on his seven-year search for a place of refuge.
Jacob and his young friends are confronted with war, starvation, dehydration, raging rivers, crocodile and lion attacks, and the evil Majok - the constant thorn in Jacob's side - as they struggle to survive on their own. As the boys work and grow together as a family, surviving in harsh conditions, against the odds, Jacob's boyhood desire to become a soldier wanes. Gradually, he comes to the realization that fighting doesn't improve anything and begins to embrace his mother's belief in education as the road to peace and stability. Inspired by the real life experiences of a Lost Boy of Sudan, this novel is about an extraordinary journey of courage, perseverance, and hope.
Jacob Deng was 7 years old when the northern militia invaded and destroyed his village in Southern Sudan, sending Jacob and thousands of other boys on an exodus to Ethiopia. The “never-ending chain” of boys followed the rising sun to safety, braving lion and crocodile attacks, mosquitoes and malaria, poisonous snakes, scorpions, gunfire and bombs. After three years in Pinyudo Refugee Camp, the refugees were chased out of Ethiopia and walked on to the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, where Jacob began to sense his place in the world as a storyteller, translator and writer. Inspired by Jacob’s true story, Coates writes vividly and poetically, establishing a clear historical context for her inspirational tale. One sketchy map is included, but a series of good maps would have helped young readers better visualize Jacob’s journey. A good match with Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water (2010) and Mary Williams’ picture book Brothers in Hope, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (2005). From the beginning, Jacob Deng embodied the spirit of Wadeng, the faith that tomorrow will be better, and by the end of the tale, Jacob as storyteller and writer is poised to enter a wider world, where “there are as many books in the world as there are stars in the African sky.” (Historical fiction. 12 & up) -Kirkus