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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Review

The Elephants Tale
By Lauren St John
Orion Books - ISBN 978-1-84255-619-1
Reviewed by Callum Graham

Martine arrives home from a ride on her white giraffe Jemmy to discover a stranger at the Sawubona game reserve. The man, Reuben James wishes to speak to her Grandmother Gwyn Thomas. He believes that after some business dealings with Martine’s now deceased Grandfather, he has the rightful ownership to there home. With less than two weeks until they are evicted and with construction vehicles already on the horizon Martine and Gwyn must fight to save the reserve, both for themselves and to protect the animals they love. Is Rueben a fraudster or is Martine’s Grandfather really the man they thought he was?

Gwyn thinks she has uncovered a clue which must take her on a trip to London, leaving Martine and the rest of the Sawubona team in charge of the game reserve. However, after receiving a prophecy from Grace, a Sangoma Zulu women, Martine becomes convinced she must do something to save Sawubona and her beloved Jemmy. With Graces words ringing in he ears Martine and her best friend Ben set out on an adventure that will see them crossing countries, saving animals and uncovering the truth behind Reuben James.

This is the fourth instalment in a series of books about Martine published by Orion. Fans of Laura St John will already be familiar with many of the characters (both animal and human), although there are a few new interesting characters that crop up along the journey. There are also plenty of encounters with various wild animals, some off which Martine, with her healing powers must try and help. The fast paced narrative encompasses a wide range of the African outdoors, from the plains of Sawubona to the Namibian desert and a secret, futuristic wildlife sanctuary. Laura St John is incredibly knowledgeable both about the habitats Martine visits and the mentality of the animals themselves. This is particularly seen in her close study of the elephants which make up a prominent part of the story, creating a vivid mental picture of the wildlife of Africa.

Although a mostly light hearted read Laura St John, through the narrative, deals with important issues such as global warming and the lack of water resources in Africa. However, this is done in a sensitive way which enhances the plot rather than inhibits it. There are also moral messages about greed to be found in the wise words of some of the people Martine meets along the way, giving an insight into countries such as south Africa which although incredibly rich in valuable minerals are some of the poorest in the world.

The interesting characters and compelling plot make this book an exciting read. There is a wealth of information contained within the story making the book feel like a learning experience as well as a piece of pleasurable literature. In the closing chapters of the book Martine uncovers some information about her future written on a cave wall. Are these ‘spoilers’ left there by Lauren St John? I guess we will have to wait for the next book to find out.

More young fiction

Miss Understanding: My Year in Agony
By Lara Fox
Published by Hodder Children’s Books 1.6.09
ISBN: 978-0-340-98882-4
Callum Graham review
Anya spending too much time solving other people’s problems and not enough time sorting out her own life


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