Reviews

“Packed with information, this colorful book provides fascinating glimpses of elephants as social animals and, in particular, as communicators. Along with more general information about African and Asian elephants and specific discussions of topics such as ivory poaching, it presents a wide variety of related topics and profiles many individuals working with elephants. One chapter traces the work of Katy Payne, whose groundbreaking research revealed that elephants use infrasound (frequencies lower than the human ear can hear) to communicate over long distances. Other intriguing sections discuss studies on elephant gestures as well as their senses of touch and smell. Well-chosen color photos appear on nearly every page, transporting readers from American zoos to African wildlife preserves to an Indian festival celebrating the birthday of the Hindu god Ganesh. The extensive back matter includes an author’s note, a dictionary of elephant sounds, source notes, a selected bibliography, and recommended reading lists of books and websites. Although most effective when focused on its primary topic, this wide-ranging book is always engaging and informative.” —Booklist

“It is early morning in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, Africa. A baby elephant hurries to keep up with his mother… “The week-old calf is still figuring out how to put one foot in front of the other. But already he is part of the herd, a rich and complex society” (p. 5). Thus begins the reader’s journey into the amazingly complex world of elephants. In Elephant Talk: The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication, Ann Downer gives the reader a glimpse into the social lives of elephants. This nonfiction book reads as fiction, with simple prose that is fact filled and engages the reader from start to finish. The book introduces a wealth of information on the social structure of elephant societies, various modes of communication, and human-elephant interaction (based on years of elephant research) in a concise and reader-friendly manner. The amazing photography makes it easier for the reader to visualize the concepts introduced in the text. The use of sidebars brings the reader one step further into the world of elephant research and often personalizes the research experience. This book is an excellent resource for those interested in elephant societies. Beyond its content, the book offers source notes, a bibliography, and a list of further resources for interested readers. Additional electronic resources are available on the Lerner Publishing Group website. Although identified as a children’s book, Elephant Talk is an excellent primer for all ages (beginning at the third-grade level).” —Jacqueline Maffucci, Science Books and Films

“The complex behavior of wild elephants is introduced in a flowing narrative accompanied by full-color photographs, diagrams, and maps. Downer provides an overview of elephant evolution, places the creatures in their African and Asian contexts, and describes the lives of these intelligent social animals. Her narrative then focuses on the elephants’ intricate verbal and nonverbal communication techniques, the physiology that enables them, and the studies and experiments scientists have conducted to learn more. The illustrations and clearly labeled diagrams and maps are well placed to amplify the text. A chapter on the elephant-human relationship contains interesting historical facts and important current information about the efforts of people to ensure the survival of elephants. Throughout this highly readable, informative title are profiles of individuals–an elephant keeper, a scout, researchers, and others–who work with these animals. The “Elephant Dictionary” will help future scientists understand an elephant’s chirp, grunt, rev, rumble, and snort!” –-School Library Journal

“This book is about more than just the sounds elephants make and the herds they create. It’s a fascinating look into how large-brained mammals form social ties and interact in a group. There are profiles of various scientists who have investigated different areas of elephant behavior and animal communication, and even several discussions of how elephant and human social connections are similar. I’m thinking someone should have a “bull elephant” group for guys to mentor teen boys…Excellent sources, a glossary of elephant sounds, suggestions for ways to help elephants indirectly and directly, and an extensive bibliography and reading/website list finish off the story of elephant communication and society. Ann Downer’s writing is clear and has a good balance of science facts, research, and stories to hold the reader’s interest. Verdict: This is an excellent middle grade book on elephants with general and historical information added to the specific topic of communication so you could easily make this your one elephant book for older grades.” —Jean Little Library

Rating: 5/5 “Elephants are amazing creatures. Truly amazing. And after reading Elephant Talk by Ann Downer, I am even more convinced of this fact. Downer focuses on the way elephants communicate with one another, through trumpets, rumbles, growls, squeaks and chirps, as well as body language and some infrasounds that humans can’t even hear…The book delves into some of the research that is being conducted on elephants in Africa and in captivity to better understand the way they communicate. Downer explains some of the specific science that is being done, such as examining scat (yuck!) and the inner ear, and using recording collars and microphones in trees to hear the elephants “speak.” It’s quite interesting ~ not at all dry reading. And the pages are filled with vibrant pictures to illustrate the points… If you have any interest in elephants at all, I highly recommend this book.” My Book Retreat

Rating: 4 stars “Elephant Talk: The Surprising Science of Elephant Communication by Ann Downer is a wonderful non-fiction book about elephants created for young adults but enjoyable for everyone from eight to eighty…. Downer brings not only the latest information about the ability of elephants to communicate across huge distances but she also shares the history of the study of elephant communication.” –Pamela Kramer, Examiner.com

“A–Recommended to all fans of Dumbo and those who enjoy nonfiction and science.” Shelley the Book Snob