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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: elephant sanctuary

I’m the last stop on Tilbury Press and The Elephant Sanctuary’s virtual book tour to promote Elephant Sanctuary co-founder Carol Buckley’s wonderful books, Just for Elephants and Travels with Tarra.

Located in Hohenwald, Tennesse, The Elephant Sanctuary is a non-profit habitat-refuge for endangered rescued African and Asian elephants. Spanning over 2,700 acres, it’s been home to twenty four elephants, and the size of the sanctuary is enough to provide a home for one hundred elephants.

Travels with Tarra

This is Tarra.  The subject of the first book, Travels with Tarra, and the reason Carol Buckley and her partner, Scott Blais founded The Elephant Sanctuary in 1995.  

While in college, Carol Buckley had the chance to purchase a baby elephant, Tarra, formerly used as a tire salesman’s gimmick, after helping care for the animal.  She trained Tarra (pronounced Tar-rah) to perform tricks, including play the xylophone, ring a bell, even roller skate.  The two traveled the around the world performing in shows and  appearing in movies such as Annie.

Their career continued for several years, until Carol began worrying about Tarra’s happiness and health.  She dreamed of a safe place for captive elephants to roam and live together. With the help of Scott Blais, she began searching for land to establish the Sanctuary.

Travels with Tarra is a beautifully done book.  I’ve had it for a few months and re-read it several times. The inside holds numerous black and white photographs from Carol, depicting Tarra throughout the years, from the various stages of her life.  I love this design choice, with the muted cover and coordinating scheme inside – similar to the grays of an elephant. The story shows why Carol and her partner Scott were declared “Heroes of the Planet” by Time Magazine for their tremendous work at the Sanctuary.

Just for Elephants

The story continues in Carol Buckley’s second book, Just for Elephants.  We’re introduced to Shirley (learn about her at the Sanctuary’s site) as she arrives at the sanctuary, her permanent new home.  Color photographs illustrate her journey from circus to Tennessee, and accompanying text tells of Shirley’s first experiences at the Sanctuary.  Since the Sanctuary is closed to the public (hence the title “Just for Elephants”), the book offers a great look at the lives of the elephants.  We see their swimming holes, the pastures, the barns.  Carol offers elephant anecdotes, such as they lie down, covering their bodies with mud to protect their skin, or how they greet each other using special trumpets and touches. 

Just for Elephants and Travels with Tarra offer children  and adults a great lesson in animal conservation, and the classroom resources located at have curriculum available, one for grades K-3 and 4-8. Publisher Tilbury House has a list of suggestions for classroom activities as well.  They’ll inspire some tears over the elephants’ plights before arriving at the Sanctuary, but also some awareness.

Copies for review provided by the publisher.

Tarra and Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends

Carol’s third book started with an animal named Bella.  Bella’s quite famous beyond the Sanctuary gates.  But Bella’s not a elephant.  She’s a dog. A stray dog who shares an extraordinary friendship with Tarra.   The two became fast friends, going everywhere together.   Then Bella was injured with a spinal cord injury and had to be rehabilitated.  Tarra kept watch outside the office where Bella was being kept for three weeks, until they brought Bella out to see her.  And the two animals had a joyous reunion.  Eventually, Bella healed.  

CBS and Oprah did features on the unlikely pair.  You can view the CBS feature below, courtesy of their Youtube page.

Their story is told for young readers in Tarra and Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Friends, out today.  With bright and colorful photographs, readers see a typical day for the two, and hear how Tarra kept a constant vigil for Bella while she recuperated.   The last pages offer some additional information about the Sanctuary, their work, and the elephants they help.  

A very sweet book, Tarra and Bella is a powerful read that both educates and entertains, while imparting a important message of friendship and acceptance. 

Title: Travels with Tarra
Author: Carol Buckley
Date: July 2002
Publisher: Tilbury House
Pages: 40
Format: Hardback
Title: Just for Elephants
Author: Carol Buckley
Date: November 2006
Publisher: Tilbury House
Pages: 32
Format: Hardback

Title: Tarra and Bella:  The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends

Author: Carol Buckley
Date: September 2009
Publisher: G.P Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 32
Format: Hardback

But I’m not done!  Anybody who visits the stops on the tour and leaves a comment will be entered to win the following, with three winners drawn September 10. These books make great gifts for a teacher or a library.
– Copy of Just for Elephants signed by Sanctuary co-founder Carol Buckley
– Copy of Travels With Tarra signed by Carol and stamped by Tarra the Elephant!
– A package of Tilbury House animal books — The Goat Lady, Thanks to the Animals, and an advance copy of Bear-ly There

You can learn about all the elephant currently residing at the Sanctuary by visiting their website at  While there, read the biography pages of each animal, sponsor an elephant, check out the newest Sanctuary happenings, and view the 24/7 elephant cam to see them out in the wild!
And for every 100 copies of Just for Elephants and Travels with Tarra sold, Tilbury House will sponsor an item off the Sanctuary’s wishlist.  The books are available at, and major bookstores such as Borders, Books-A-Million, etc.

Check out the other stops on the tour below.

Tuesday, Sept. 1:  Reading Rumpus
Wednesday, Sept. 2: Sacred Elephants
Thursday, Sept. 3:  Read These Books and Use Them!
Friday, Sept. 4: Maw Books
Saturday, Sept. 5:  Shelf Elf
Sunday, Sept. 6:  Bees Knees
Monday, Sept. 7:  Through the Looking Glass