Reviews provided by Syndetics
School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-7-Having spent his life in the slums of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 1870s, the orphan known simply as "Boy" doesn't know his name or age or why he is unable to talk. He is at the mercy of the local crime boss, Frank Scatcherd, who forces him to attend an auction in order to look for some money he claims was stolen. At the auction, the boy is caught by Mr. Jameson, a menagerie owner hoping to buy a famous elephant named Maharajah. Mr. Jameson puts the boy on a high pillar and orders him to help his bid be noticed above the massive crowd. Now Mr. Jameson is offering him a new identity as the mysterious Indian Prince Dandip (nicknamed Danny), and a chance to work for his menagerie, as long as he can ride Maharajah two hundred miles in seven days in order to win a bet. The journey is challenging enough already, but it is made even more difficult by obstacles along the way: a thief, a blocked toll gate, a broken bridge, a near-drowning, and, finally, a fire and a trial. But the boy who never had any reason to trust anyone finds himself -becoming increasingly attached to the gentle elephant, and even to the other members of the menagerie staff. Loosely based on the true story of Maharajah, an Asian elephant who walked from Edinburgh to Manchester in 1872, this middle grade historical novel is filled with plot twists and mysteries. Danny's transformation from a nameless, helpless orphan to a brave elephant trainer is satisfying, and the side characters (especially Hetty and the elephant Maharajah) are appealing. The story culminates in a tense courtroom trial and an exciting battle with a hardened criminal. VERDICT This historical fiction adventure will appeal to middle grade -animal lovers.-Ashley -Larsen, -Pacifica -Libraries, CA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In Edinburgh 1872, an exotic-animal auction is underway, and street thief Danny is scouting the pavilion. A mute in the employ of a dangerous gang leader, Danny lives a hardscrabble life from which he is plucked, incredibly, by an elephant. When the African elephant Maharajah appears on the auction block, a fierce bidding war breaks out, and Danny helps secure a win for James Jameson, owner of the Bell Vue Zoological Gardens in Manchester, England. Not content with a simple victory, the Barnum-like Mr. Jameson agrees to a high-stakes wager with his bidding rival an Elephant Race to take Maharajah to Manchester on foot in only seven days. Furthermore, he plans to pass the dark-skinned Danny off as an Indian prince for added publicity. Based on an actual event, Kerr's debut is woven with suspense, excitement, and intrigue. Though Danny encounters racial prejudice on the journey, he also finds a surrogate family and develops a deep connection to Maharajah. Filled with surprises, this book will have readers scrambling toward the finish line.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2018 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Set in Scotland and northern England, BBC journalist Kerr's middle-grade debut is based on the true story of a marketing stunt in 1872, when an elephant called Maharajah was ridden from Edinburgh to Manchester. When brown-skinned orphan Danny, a mute, mixed-race street urchin, is dispatched to an Edinburgh auction by a criminal gang leader, he accidentally helps Mr. Jameson, owner of the Belle Vue menagerie, buy Maharajah. Maharajah is owned by a rival traveling circus that is closing down. When Jameson accepts an impossible wagerto walk Maharajah from Edinburgh to Manchester in less than seven days, or lose everythinghe offers Danny the job of doing so, as he observes that Danny and Maharajah seem to immediately have a special connection. He transforms Danny into a bejeweled "Indian prince," or Prince Dandip. As he rides Maharajah from Scotland to England, even Queen Victoria takes an interest. Danny becomes a celebrity, but his past entanglements, including a notorious gang leader, are following, desperate to ruin him. Given that the novel is based on true events, readers may know Danny and Maharajah do reach Manchester (a skeleton of the real Maharajah is on display in Manchester Museum). Yet Kerr provides ample historical detail and fictional twists to keep readers engaged to the end. Her measured third-person narrative develops Danny and the secondary cast with affection and nuance, Danny's consciousness of his difference and the slights he suffers because of it ever present.A rollicking, charming historical thriller. (Historical fiction. 8-12) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.