Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 12 to 16
- Grade: 6
When civil war strikes Jacob Deng's Southern Sudanese village, seven-year-old Jacob embarks on a seemingly endless journey that tests his courage and determination. His wise mama tells him that he must one day go to school to seek answers and help carve a better future for his people. Wadeng is a Dinka word meaning "look to the future, it will be better; follow your dreams", and it, along with his precious "Mama stone", becomes Jacob's talisman of hope, helping him remain strong on his seven-year search for a place of refuge.
Jacob and his young friends are confronted with war, starvation, dehydration, raging rivers, crocodile and lion attacks, and the evil Majok - the constant thorn in Jacob's side - as they struggle to survive on their own. As the boys work and grow together as a family, surviving in harsh conditions, against the odds, Jacob's boyhood desire to become a soldier wanes. Gradually, he comes to the realization that fighting doesn't improve anything and begins to embrace his mother's belief in education as the road to peace and stability. Inspired by the real life experiences of a Lost Boy of Sudan, this novel is about an extraordinary journey of courage, perseverance, and hope.
About the author
Jan L. Coates is the author of numerous books for young readers, including A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk, a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award and the Ann Connor Brimer Award, as well as a USBBY Outstanding International Book. Her middle grade novels have been finalists for the Ann Connor Brimer Award, the Violet Downey Award, and the Hackmatack Children's Choice Award. Sky Pig received the 2017 Lillian Shepherd Award for Illustration and was shortlisted for a Willow Award. She lives, writes, and teaches in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
"Inspired by Jacob Deng's true story, Coates writes vividly and poetically, establishing a clear historical context for her inspirational tale."
— Kirkus starred review
"Young readers will find admirable qualities in Jacob, as he perseveres through months of thirst, hunger, bloody wounds wrapped in leaves, walking many miles from grasslands through blistering sand, and escaping ravenous crocodiles while crossing rivers to reach safety. The author includes interviews and a glossary that further explain how the story came to be written. This book puts into perspective the peace and educational opportunities that readers enjoy."
— Foreword Magazine
"Teens will be moved by the unsparing survival story and the climax, when Jacob learns to read."
"A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk is an incredible story. . . As a compelling story of the lives of war-affected children, it certainly has a place in middle-school.
— CM Magazine
"An important and well-written story. Jan Coates takes the reader deep into the lives of children dealing with the uproar of war and terror - a strong reminder that the world needs to do better."
— Deborah Ellis
"Jan Coates has succeeded wonderfully with A Hare in the Elephant's Trunk. She gives the reader an uncomfortably vivid sense of what it must be like to lose one's home and family, to wander aimlessly through a bleak and blasted landscape, in constant danger of starving or being shot. Such desperate circumstances could have led her young protagonist, Jacob, to become bitter, to resort to violence himself. And, working with such material, Coates could have written a very dark and despairing sort of book. But both the author and her characters rise above the situation and find in it an unexpected wealth of humour and humanity and hope."
— Gary L. Blackwood, author of The Shakespeare Stealer, The Great Race, The Just-So Woman, and Second Sight
A Hare in the Elephant’s TrunkIn 1987, soldiers from the north invade the village of Duk Padiet where Jacob Deng lives with his family. Jacob is forced to flee with thousands of others, spending months walking through deserts and crocodile-infested rivers, only to spend years living in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. Guided by the memory of his mother and her belief in education as the key to escaping violence, Jacob survives.
Source: The Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Best Books for Kids & Teens. Fall, 2012.