Reviews for Balarama : A Royal Elephant

Booklist Reviews 2009 November #2
With exciting text and lush, photo-realistic watercolors, the Lewins describe their close-up encounters with parade elephants in southern India in the late 1990s. After they meet a magnificent Royal Elephant, Drona, in the forest, they decide to return a year later to see the animal lead the city of Mysore's parade. Unfortunately, Drona dies before the Lewins' return, but they watch his successor, Balarama, lead the parade for the first time. Can he live up to his predecessor? The views of Balarama with his brightly painted head and shoulders are majestic, and so are the rest of the scenes of the big-city ceremony, featuring soldiers on horseback in front of the palace. Along with the glowing images of elephants in their shimmering silk drapes of purple and red, there are occasional, line-and-watercolor pictures of tourists in a nearby camp, watching a young, mischievous elephant chasing the local children. The combination of compelling travelogue and images is immediate and dramatic. Kids will also enjoy the extensive back matter, which includes elephant facts and a glossary. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring
In Mysore in southern India, elephants are featured in the annual Dasara festival procession. The Lewins describe Balarama's triumphant first appearance as procession leader. Pageantry and noble beasts alike are vividly realized in Ted Lewin's signature watercolors, while Betsy Lewin's agile drawings add deft characterizations, lively action, and humor. It's a gorgeous glimpse at a continuing custom. "Elephant Facts" are appended. Glos. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2010 #1
In the city of Mysore in southern India, a magnificent elephant is featured in the annual Dasara procession. To set this event in context, the Lewins describe the Karapur Forest, where wild elephants mingle with tame ones (and their mahouts), and where they heard tales of Drona, the elephant that led these parades from 1982 to 1997. They'd hoped to return to see Drona in his starring role; but because of Drona's accidental death, it's his successor Balarama's triumphant first appearance as the leader of the royal elephants that's described here. Pageantry and noble beasts alike are vividly realized in Ted Lewin's signature watercolors, while Betsy Lewin's agile drawings add deft characterizations, lively action (drummers in the parade), and humor (a young elephant romps with a mahout's children; another topples a truckful of bananas). It's mentioned that Dasara is "a centuries-old royal and religious festival" and that "the last day commemorates the Hindu goddess Chamundeshwari and celebrates the triumph of good over evil." The focus here, however, is on the spectacle and the elephant, while the significance of the golden howdah he carries and its contents (aside from mention of "a ritual blessing") aren't sufficiently explained. Still, it's a gorgeous glimpse of a continuing custom. "Elephant Facts," descriptions of recent royal elephants, and a glossary are included. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 August #2
On a tour of southern India, the authors are so entranced by Drona, the lead Royal Elephant of the maharaja of Mysore, and the stories his mahout (trainer) tells that the celebrated children's-book duo decides to return to southern India for the Dasara festival in order to see Drona lead an annual ceremonial procession. As in the pair's earlier Gorilla Walk (1999), illustration styles are mixed here, from Ted Lewin's rich, layered watercolors to Betsy Lewin's funny, sketchy vignettes. The artists' return is bittersweet: Drona has met with an untimely end but will be replaced by Balarama, another magnificent elephant that will bear the weight of the ceremonial howdah for the first time. An extended snapshot of the animal, its care and importance to the people of India, the book provides a pleasing mixture of the authors' observations, descriptions of local traditions and a stately depiction of the great beast, all holding together nicely in a flowing narrative. (map, endnotes, glossary) (Informational picture book. 7-10) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 September #1

Rich watercolors and as-it-happens writing bring the story of India's royal elephants into sharp focus. On the Lewins' (Gorilla Walk) first trip to India, they hear about Drona, a beloved elephant chosen to head the parade of a religious festival. When they meet Drona face-to-face, they agree: "He is magnificent. We feel his aura strongly." But between their first trip and their second, Drona is killed in an accident, and the focus shifts to Balarama, the newly chosen lead elephant. How will Balarama cope with the noise and the crowds? The Lewins' watercolor spreads emphasize India's brilliant light, deep purple shadows and the way the elephants dwarf their human handlers. They are honest about the cruelty of past capture methods, but include anecdotes to offset the story's sober moments (as when Drona tips over a truck carrying bananas "and ate all but one case"). Loose sketchbook spots appear intermittently, which will either provide light relief or distract from the more ambitious and realistic spreads. Still, for a clear view of a tradition dating back centuries, it's a valuable contribution. Ages 6-11. (Sept.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2009 September

Gr 3-6--The Lewins continue their accounts of their worldwide adventures, here with two voyages to southern India. On their first trip, they visited a camp of trained elephants and their handlers in the forest and learned of the royal elephants used for festivals. They met Drona, who was to lead the annual Dasara procession in Mysore in the fall, and they were so enraptured that they decided to return for the festival. Upon their arrival, they learned that Drona had died, and that a new elephant had been chosen to lead the procession. Ted Lewin's brilliant, realistic watercolors capture the sun-drenched pageantry of Mysore as well as the dusty, filtered light of the forest, while Betsy Lewin's lively cartoons aptly depict the action and personalities involved. The story has pathos and tension, and the Lewins' narration takes readers into the forest, to the grounds of the maharaja's pale palace, along the parade route, and eye-to-eye with the majestic animals. Facts about elephants and brief biographies of some of the royal elephants are a welcome addition, and a glossary--with pronunciation help--is provided. If the art doesn't grab chidren, the elephants surely will. Wonderful.--Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD

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