Reviews for Hare in the Elephant's Trunk

Booklist Reviews 2011 January #1
Drawing on the true story of one child who fled southern Sudan's brutal civil war, this novel is told from the viewpoint of a "Lost Boy," Jacob, who is just seven years old when he is forced to leave his home and family in 1987. After a perilous trek, he eventually finds refuge in United Nations camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, and, at age 12, he achieves his dream of going to school. As in Lost Boy, Lost Girl: Escaping Civil War in Sudan, by John Bul Dau and Martha Arual Akech (2010), and many other similar, personal accounts of Sudan's conflict, this novel describes the brutal journey and the bliss, for some, of finding food, fresh water, and shelter, as well as the pressure the boys feel to join the army. Along the way, Jacob nurtures a younger kid, and his explanations to the child about the struggle "to find peace again" also put the events in context for readers. Teens will be moved by the unsparing survival story and the climax, when Jacob learns to read. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

ForeWord Magazine Reviews 2011 January/February

The orphaned "Lost Boys of Sudan," the most likely to survive of the two million people displaced during the late 1980s and early 1990s, seek refuge in Ethiopia and Kenya. In A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk, author Jan L. Coates takes the experiences of one real-life survivor, Jacob Deng, and creates a vivid and detailed story.

Young Jacob plays peacefully in his Sudanese village. He makes clay figures, gives his little sister rides on his back, and watches his beautiful mama wash clothes at the river and grind millet for supper porridge. Singing and storytelling are a large part of their lives. They sing special songs to go to sleep, to soothe the cows, or to urge a baby to come.

Then war intrudes. Jacob's uncle explains it this way: "The government in the north wants to get rid of all the black Africans in Southern Sudan, or have us do their work." The southern Sudan's oil and fertile land are also desirable assets. When Jacob is seven years old, soldiers attack his village, and he must flee.

Jacob's big feet have earned him his nickname, "the Hare." Like the fabled small hare who outsmarts an elephant, he wishes he could overcome the elephant-soldiers who ride in to the village shooting and stabbing, while tanks crush and helicopters drop fire on the people's huts. Amid explosions and the screams of people and animals, Jacob runs into the forest. He never sees his beloved mother again. Her encouragement, however, stays with him: Wadeng, or hope for tomorrow, and her advice: "An education will give you the tools to carve a better future for our people."

As a refugee, Jacob is tempted to fight to save his land by joining the Sudan People's Liberation Army. At heart, however, he would rather write down the stories of his heritage. He becomes a translator for aid workers in the refugee camps where he stays. Education becomes his focus.

Young readers will find admirable qualities in Jacob, as he perseveres through months of thirst, hunger, bloody wounds wrapped in leaves, walking many miles from grasslands through blistering sand, and escaping ravenous crocodiles while crossing rivers to reach safety. The author includes interviews and a glossary that further explain how the story came to be written. This book puts into perspective the peace and educational opportunities that readers enjoy. Proceeds from the novel will be shared with Jacob's foundation for children's learning, Wadeng Wings of Hope.

2010 ForeWord Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 January #2

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)


Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Reviews 2011 May

Gr 8 Up--In 1987, seven-year-old Jacob Deng's world explodes into chaos and confusion; his village in Southern Sudan, Duk Padiet, is attacked and destroyed by the Northern militia. The boy is suddenly left to wander the continent on his way to a refugee camp in Ethiopia and, later, Kenya. Jacob does not, however, wander alone. He is one link in a "never-ending chain" of boys. Lions, malaria, guns, and war threaten these "lost boys" at every turn. Throughout his tremendous and harrowing journey, Jacob thinks about Mama and strives to find those things that will lift him from the murk of war and tumult. And he learns to read. This novel, based on the life of the real Jacob Deng, provides insight into the struggles of the Sudan as well as a strong, clear voice. Coates gives an unflinching and poetic glimpse into the life of a boy who chose hope in the face of adversity. An interview with Deng is included.--Naphtali L. Faris, Youth Services Consultant, Missouri State Library, Jefferson City, MO

[Page 108]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

VOYA Reviews 2011 February
Civil war in the 1980s and early 1990s displaced more than 20,000 Sudanese boys from their homes, causing them to wander across their own country, as well as Ethiopia and Kenya, in search of refuge. The author has fleshed out the true story of one of these "lost boys", as they were referred to by Western media, in order to create a novel filled with both sorrow and triumph over adversity. This is the tale of Jacob Deng, driven from his home and most likely made an orphan at only seven years of age. It is the story of the hardships he must face over the next seven years of life as he struggles at first simply to survive and then later to find a way to pursue an education. Jacob's almost unrelenting optimism in the face of suffering might seem somewhat unrealistic to Western readers, but it is probably true that without such hope for a better tomorrow, or wadeng, Jacob would not have survived his journey across three countries. Proceeds from this novel go to the real-life Jacob Deng's charity, Wadeng Wings of Hope, providing funds for educating youth in southern Sudan, and the book contains afterwords by both the author and Deng, as well as a glossary of Sudanese terms.--Sean Rapacki 4Q 3P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.