Karl and his mother are sitting at the edge of their seats as ninety-year-old Lizzie tells them the amazing story of survival and adventure of when she, her mother, her little brother and an elephant trekked at night across war-torn Germany. Lizzie tells them what it was like growing up in Germany during World War II. When her father was inducted into the German army, he left Lizzie, her little brother, Karli, and her mother behind. Lizzie’s mother had a job at the zoo in the city of Dresden in East Germany. As the war progressed, it soon became clear that Dresden would be the next target for the Allied bombers. The zoo director called an emergency meeting. He told his staff that in the event of an air raid all the large animals would have to be shot. Everyone was shocked, but they soon realized how dangerous it would be for the people of Dresden if a direct hit destroyed the large animals’ cages, and tigers, lions and elephants ran free. Lizzie’s mother had been taking care of an orphaned elephant. She begged the director not to shoot this gentle elephant, who was no threat to anyone. Finally the zoo director put Marlene, the young elephant, into Lizzie’s mother’s care. Marlene would now have to be with Lizzie’s mother day and night. Every evening Marlene came home with Lizzie’s mother from the zoo and was brought into their garden, to the delight of Lizzie, Karli and the neighborhood children. In the morning, the elephant went back to the zoo. Lizzie and Karli looked forward each evening for the arrival of Marlene. They learned to feed her, clean up after her and play with her. In a very short time they learned to love her, and Marlene became part of the family. Then, one day, the warning sirens sounded and everyone rushed to the air raid shelter. Lizzie, Karli, their mother and Marlene were too far out on a walk in the park to make it safely to the shelters in time. They had no choice but to flee into the countryside. From a safe distance they watched the bombs fall on Dresden and came to realize that they would never be able to go back home. The decision was made that all four would have to travel west to get away from the burning city and the advancing Russian soldiers. What an adventure-filled trip it turned out to be for them! An Elephant in the Garden is a fast-paced, exciting story.
If you like this book, then check out another elephant adventure story: Mosey: The Remarkable Friendship of a Boy and His Elephant by Ralph Helfer. Both books are based on true stories. Review by Trudy Walsh