Tag Archives: jungle

The Elephant Keeper – Christopher Nicholson

The Elephant Keeper’s main human character is Tom Page, a stable boy turned elephant expert in 18th century England. Tom’s story starts with the arrival of two half-dead baby elephants on a boat returning from India. Tom grows up with the elephants on a village estate and becomes the only person able or willing to understand the mighty beasties.

As the Fates (in the form of increasingly nasty people) try to manipulate and abuse the elephants for various reasons, from ivory farms to 18th century rapemobiles, Tom ties his own fate ever tighter to the lady elephant, Jenny. Jenny is the true star of the novel and Nicholson writes her with quiet, noble humor. Of all the characters in the book, Jenny is the only one you would wish as a friend. She’s portrayed so lovingly it becomes totally believable that Tom would sacrifice human interaction to stay by her side.

Tom himself is a bit of a washout, Jenny really deserves better. Nicholson’s depiction of Tom is of a man not quite gullible enough to be a lovable naif but too dumb to be an appealing hero. Still, Tom does his best to keep Jenny safe, and considering the sad end most menagerie animals faced during the 1700s, and even today, the story would have been far shorter had the elephant been without a keeper.

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Adventures among the Ants – Mark Moffett

Hey, remember when you told me that you’d buy me an ice cream if I’d just freaking shut up about ants for a second? Well, I’ll buy my own dang ice cream. Here’s another ant related review.

You know how Buster Keaton somehow highlights the creature that is man through physical comedy? Well, if Keaton was a scientist, and instead of having houses fall around him, he was always being bitten by ants, he’d be Mark Moffett.

Moffett is a former student of the brilliant E.O Wilson and he clearly shares Wilson’s passion and keen eye for nature study. Unlike Wilson however, who seems always to be quietly whispering his observations to you (so tender), Moffett is a confident, funny man grown up in the hilarious-nature-host era of television. He’s bold and goofy and clumsy. He’s constantly disrupting weddings, falling from trees and of course, being bitten, stung and sprayed with toxic chemicals by all manner of amazing insects.

Adventures among the Ants is a great travelogue, biography, philosophical study and informative nature tome. You will want to immediately grab your macro lens and head out in search of exploding soldier ants and swimming pitcher plant guards.  You might also reconsider your ideas of individuality and devotion to fellow man. If you don’t like jungles you’ll get the mad heebie jeebies. Sissy.

Did you know…

that the bigger an ant colony is the more specialized its members can be?

that large colonies move quicker than small colonies, something also seen in humans?

that ants choose new homes by voting?

that the biggest ant war in the world is currently occurring in San Diego?

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Filed under non fiction, Review