April 25, 2019

Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave

Written by Ruth James
Illustrated by Kent Laforme
Page Two Books
32 pp.
Ages 6-10
May 2019
From Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave by Ruth James, illus. by Kent Laforme
This is Paseka. After she and her mother are attacked by hyenas and separated, Paseka searches for Mama and is drawn to a large grey shape moving quickly along a tree bridge (a log road). Though fooled, the injured Paseka follows the safari jeep into the camp, causing mayhem in her desperation. To help the very young elephant, camp workers tranquilize her and tend to her injuries, and she is taken to an elephant rehabilitation camp.

When released, Paseka bounds to the matriarch, hopeful it is her mama and desperate for milk. But all the elephants need to check out Paseka first, prodding her with their trunks.
Standing quietly, Paseka sucked her own trunk, gaining comfort and helping herself to be brave.
Hungry, she listens as they discuss her, until the matriarch, who knows of Paseka's harrowing story and loss, welcomes her into the herd and matches her with a mother elephant and her older female calf. A mother, a sister, and milk.
From Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave by Ruth James, illus. by Kent Laforme
Still, there is the solemnity of elephants lost, to poachers and predators, and amongst the bones of poached elephants, little Paseka hears and feels the heart song of her mother that had urged her, before birth, to
Be strong, my Paseka!
Be steady, have courage.
Play every day!
Connected both to her mother in spirit and to the elephants of her new herd, little Paseka learns she has the strength to belong and be saved.
From Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave by Ruth James, illus. by Kent Laforme
Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave is loosely based on a true story of an orphaned baby elephant that writer Ruth James heard about when she visited Kenya as a founding member of the African Children's Book Box Society. (Book sales benefit this organization.) While Paseka's true story appends the picture book, the story is not an informational text about vulnerable elephants and poaching. It's an uplifting story about finding one's place through tragedy. It's about holding onto connections with those gone and making new connections to sustain and comfort. And it's about elephants and their bonds, their losses, their resilience, and their spirit.

Ruth James's words are eloquent and emotional, from the attack by the hyenas, to Paseka's heartbreaking search for her mother and for the security and sustenance she desperately requires and finds.

A baby elephant's heart can ache with hoping.

The fragility of Paseka's story is reflected in Ruth James's elegant prose and Kent Laforme's illustrations. Kent Laforme may be more widely known as a Victoria, BC stone carver–he is currently working on a stone sculpture of Paseka (https://www.kentlaforme.com/elephant-dream) –but I hope we see more and more of his exquisite ink and watercolour artwork in children's books. Kent Laforme blends the right mix of reality with heart, telling Paseka's story of tragedy and finding hope, with an atmospheric touch that reveals but doesn't crush. That's a profound accomplishment of artistry for a story that includes predation, death, hunger, and abandonment. Moreover, by emphasizing a palette of purple, the reader is infused with both the regality of these magnificent creatures and the sorrow of the situation.

For those passionate about elephants, about showing compassion for all creatures, and for making a world that embraces all, Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave will tell you a real story.
From Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave by Ruth James, illus. by Kent Laforme

A downloadable Teacher Resource Guide is available at pasekathebook.com.


Multiple book events for the launch of Paseka: A Little Elephant, Brave will be held in British Columbia in the following weeks. I will post tomorrow with details.


  1. Thank you for telling me about this heart-breaking story. What a wonderful message to share with Little Canadians.

    1. It really is a lovely story. Though it is heartbreaking, it ends with hope that comes with finding new family.