The story is based on a real-life incident and photographs of the real Kutti, the elephants, the sanctuary, and Kutti's village are in an extended appendix after the story, with detailed information on the elephants and people living in the wildlife sanctuary. One interesting detail is that the domesticated elephants are mostly tri-lingual, and can understand the local tribal language, Kurumba, as well as Tamil and Hindi. There are more than a dozen black-and-white photographs showing the care and feeding of the elephants in their environment.
Review: I enjoyed the book, as did my children. The story is engaging, and written in a simple, yet flowing style. There is enough adventurous action in the story to keep the pages turning from beginning to end. At the start of the story, young Kutti becomes a mahout, or trainer, for a baby elephant. He likes the work of caring and feeding the elephant. As he trains the elephant, he becomes a close friend with his elephant. When a new wild baby elephant arrives, Kutti is at first excited, but then feels jealous as others' attention turns to the new smaller elephant. In the end, Kutti learns a deeper lesson of friendship during an exciting drama with both the elephants.
The illustrations are brown-and-white line drawings, which at first did not attract me, but grew on me over time. The children enjoyed the drawings, though, especially one which shows a bit of a dream of Kutti's where he imagines the rescue of a baby elephant. All the baby elephant drawings, in fact, are cute and winsome. The photographs in the appendix are fascinating, giving a window into a world that most readers would probably not be familiar with.
I think the book would be appropriate for children ages 6-11. The book does not contain chapters and can be read by a child over the age of 7. The appendix with the real-life descriptions is better read by a parent or adult to the child, as the text and information is more dense.
I definitely recommend this book, especially for any animal lovers.