On My Bookshelf: When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer

March 04, 2019

When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer has a wonderful balance of action, drama, romance, and animals that kept me wanting to read more to see how things would turn out for both Lily and Swifty. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: T. Lily Decker is a high school senior with a twelve-year plan: avoid stress, drugs, alcohol and boyfriends, and take regular psych quizzes administered by her best friend, Sawyer, to make sure she’s not developing schizophrenia.

Genetics are not on Lily’s side. When she was seven, her mother, who had paranoid schizophrenia, tried to kill her. And a secret has revealed that Lily’s odds are even worse than she thought. Still, there’s a chance to avoid triggering the mental health condition, if Lily can live a careful life from ages eighteen to thirty, when schizophrenia most commonly manifests.

But when a newspaper internship results in Lily witnessing a mother elephant try to kill her three-week-old calf, Swifty, Lily can’t abandon the story or the calf. With Swifty in danger of dying from grief, Lily must choose whether to risk everything, including her sanity and a first love, on a desperate road trip to save the calf’s life, perhaps finding her own version of freedom along the way.

Why I liked it: When Elephants Fly has a wonderful balance of action, drama, romance, and animals that kept me wanting to read more to see how things would turn out for both Lily and Swifty. The novel begins with an introduction to Lily's traumatic past and her never wavering best friend Sawyer.  Things quickly escalate when Lily comes between a mother elephant and her baby. Her actions jeopardize the baby elephant's home at the zoo and create concerns for Lily about her own mental health. 

The novel struck a careful balance between raising awareness about mental health issues, educating readers about elephants' plight in captivity, and weaving an interesting plot line that encompasses the two issues. While I thought the romance plot was a little rushed, I was impressed by everything else the author undertook. The ending leaves readers hanging as to Swifty's fate, so if you are hoping for a happy ending, this one won't be a definitive one. 

Classroom application: I loved reading about the author's inspiration for the novel, which would be great to share with students. Your animal lovers will adore this book and it would also be an excellent addition to literature circles themed around mental health issues like these titles.

After reading, the novel lends itself to the opportunity for discussion about how to best raise awareness about and protect endangered large mammals. In recent years, I've seen the end of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus and the departure of the elephants from (my local) Philadelphia Zoo. My students may not have had the chance to experience either, which means their exposure to elephants is only through photograph and videos. It would be interesting to see how this affects students concern for these majestic creatures. Discussion could easily lead to a variety of topics for an argumentative essay: Are zoos ethical? Are circuses a form of animal abuse? Do mental health issues received proper attention and support in our country?

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of When Elephants Fly for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer has a wonderful balance of action, drama, romance, and animals that kept me wanting to read more to see how things would turn out for both Lily and Swifty. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

You Might Also Like

0 comments