Monday, February 2, 2009

Hannah's Dream by Diane Hammond

This is the sweetest book, and such a gentle read. It is charming, and captivating. A story you will not soon forget.

For 41 years, Samson Brown has been caring for Hannah, the one and only elephant at the Max L. Biedelman Zoo--a zoo that has seen better days. He has vowed not to retire until he can find a devoted caretaker for his Hannah. Sam is overjoyed when he finds Neva Wilson, but despite her care they both realize that Hannah is isolated from other elephants and her feet are bad from standing on hard concrete all day, and they hatch a plot to send Hannah to an elephant sanctuary. The Zoo's unhappy Director is their main adversary though, because she does not want her star attraction and main financial draw to go anywhere else.

This is such a touching and uplifting story written with great poignancy and it proves, as Booklist
says, that love comes in all shapes and sizes.

Here's a couple of quotes to give you just a taste of the wisdom contained in this book. The first is from Maxine L. Biedelman, the colorful woman who started the zoo, who is talking to Samson Brown, Hannah's keeper: "The World is simpler in Africa, Mr. Brown. Not in all ways, of course, but in the important ones. You eat when you're hungry and sleep when you're tired and you know you're nothing more than a gnat, a visitor, forgotten even before you're gone. Africa belongs to the land and the animals. It's no place for the high-strung."

At another point, Maxine Biedelman is looking back on her long life, and says "Do you know what I've been thinking lately? I've been thinking that we're animals, like any others--we senesce, we sink into decrepitude just as they do. But I've wondered if it isn't our special hell that we are able to register the swift passage of time, the lightning speed of it all, and the absoluteness with which it is gone. I feel my age, Mr. Brown, I feel every bit of it, and yet I can recall so very clearly what it was like to be young. It torments me. I should like, just one more time, to feel the winds of Africa, to hear and feel the din and the heat of the Indonesian jungle. The mahouts used to sing as they prepared their supper. They were a joyful people who believed in a joyful world. And indeed, the world is a fine place when one sees it from the back of an elephant."

In the book, when they are looking for something to enrich the environment for Hannah, they try painting. I thought you might enjoy the video below of an elephant painting. It is truly amazing.

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