I am reviewing a middle grade novel today entitled Chained, by Lynne Kelly. Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, it will be on shelves May 8, 2012.
The Story- Hastin is a ten year old boy living with his mother and sister in a small village in India. One day his sister falls ill and is rushed to the hospital in the big city. Unable to pay the bill, Hastin’s mother takes a job in the city with an abusive employer. When Hastin finds out about the abuse he is determined to get his family out of debt and rescue his mother.
As luck would have it (or not), Hastin gets hired as an elephant care taker for a newly formed circus. The pay is enough to clear his family, but the price is a year of his service far from home. Upon reaching the circus, Hastin realizes he is in for a hard time. His only consolation is his sweet elephant, Nandita. He loves to spend time with her and is dismayed when the owner decides to chain her legs together.
The abuse of his elephant grows worse, and soon an order of execution is given. Hastin’s only chance is to rebel against his cruel caretakers, break Nandita’s chains and escape into the forest.
My thoughts- This is definitely an upper middle grade book. The story is thought provoking and really brings to light the hard times faced by families in poverty. Hastin’s journey is one of growth and realization. He is a wonderful character who loves his family and shows kindness to all who deserve it. The events that take place at the circus ring true of what I know of some elephant training. (Think Water for Elephants). Put is not so graphically described as to be too disturbing for children.
Though this book is a work of fiction, I believe it holds great educational value for young readers. It takes place in a land and culture that are unfamiliar to our youth. It has great themes such as courage, perseverance, kindness and work ethic.
I really enjoyed the entire story, however, I must say that at the beginning of the book I couldn’t figure out if Hastin was a boy or a girl, and where the story took place. I first thought they were in Africa and it wasn’t until a few chapters later that a character mentioned Burma and I realized I was a whole continent off lol. Other than those two issues, the story flows well and is a definite good read for middle graders.
I was so intrigued by this story I had to ask the author a couple questions:
1. This is such an interesting subject- Where did you get an idea to write about India and elephants?
I've always loved elephants, so they were fun to research. The story started out with an idea about a captive elephant who breaks free from her chains, and I thought of her as one who was taken from the wild and works fairly close to where she came from, so that home is within reach but miles away, in effect, because of her captivity.
2. What type of message do you want youth to take away from reading your book?
I hope that readers will be inspired by the friendship between Hastin and Nandita and by Hastin's strength and bravery he shows in overcoming the obstacles thrown at him, even when he doesn't feel very brave.