Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Children's Nonfiction Endangered

Elephant Keeper, The

Caring for Orphaned Elephants in Zambia

by (author) Margriet Ruurs

illustrated by Pedro Covo

Kids Can Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2017
Endangered, Africa, Elephants, Environmental Conservation & Protection
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2017
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 8 to 12
  • Grade: 3 to 7
  • Reading age: 8 to 12


When teenaged Aaron discovers a baby elephant nearly drowning in the swimming pool at the guest lodge where he works, he acts quickly and manages to save the animal just in time. The rescued baby is brought to an elephant orphanage for care, and given the name Zambezi. Though Aaron has been raised to think of elephants as dangerous to humans and their crops, on a visit to the orphanage, he learns that illegal poaching of these animals is threatening them with extinction, and the orphanage is trying to prevent that from happening. And when Aaron is offered a job at the orphanage, his life is suddenly transformed, as he discovers a bond of friendship with Zambezi and his lifelong vocation as an elephant keeper.

Inspired by the real-life Aaron and Zambezi at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery in Zambia, author Margriet Ruurs has created a moving story that powerfully demonstrates the plight of endangered animals everywhere. Pedro Covo's stunning illustrations add a level of depth and haunting beauty to the story and the animals. Three nonfiction spreads interspersed throughout the story explore facts about elephants, ivory poaching and elephant orphanages. The back of the book contains ways children can help endangered wildlife. Useful tools include a table of contents and a glossary. This beautifully illustrated nonfiction book spans the curriculum, from life sciences to global awareness to environmental stewardship. It also offers a unique perspective for character education lessons on empathy, caring and responsibility on a larger scale.

About the authors

Margriet Ruurs is the award-winning author of forty books for children. Passionate about literacy, she writes children's and educational materials and conducts author visits and writing workshops at international schools around the world. Her picture book biography A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison won the Canadian Children’s Literature Roundtables Information Book Award and the Crystal Kite Award, and was nominated for several others. Born in the Netherlands, Margriet raised her family in the Yukon, Canada. Today, when she isn't travelling, she runs a booklover's bed and breakfast on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia.


Margriet Ruurs' profile page

Pedro Covo is a painter and illustrator whose work has been featured in several magazines and other publications. The Elephant Keeper is his first book. He lives in Cartagena, Colombia.

Pedro Covo's profile page


  • Unknown, Diamond Willow Award, Saskatchewan Young Readers' Choice Awards
  • Unknown, Silver Birch Express Award, Ontario Library Association
  • Unknown, Just One More Page! Recommendation List, WSRA Children's Literature Committee
  • Winner, Best Children's Books of the Year, Bank Street College
  • Short-listed, Chocolate Lily Award
  • Winner, Best Books for Kids & Teens, starred selection, Canadian Children's Book Centre
  • Winner, Skipping Stones Honor List, Skipping Stones Magazine
  • Winner, Teachers' Choices List, International Literacy Association
  • Winner, Eureka! Gold Award, California Reading Association
  • Winner, OLA Best Bets, Ontario Library Association

Editorial Reviews

A moving and unforgettable true story ...

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

... heartfelt, sensitive, and inspiring.


Ruurs' book gives compelling insight into the efforts to preserve a unique and appealing species and of the attempts to mitigate the threats from increasing human encounters.

CM Magazine

... Ruurs's narrative builds a strong emotional connection between readers and the subject---this is a tale designed to pull at the heartstrings of readers.

School Library Journal

Other titles by

Related lists