Bandoola by William Grill is narrative non-fiction that both moves and inspires the reader. The story of one special elephant from Myanmar and his role in a wartime escape is sensitively told in this beautiful book highlighting the importance of our relationship with animals.
When William Grill discovered a copy of “Elephant Bill” in a second hand bookshop many years ago it prompted him to research more about the man and his remarkable story. The tale takes place in Myanmar during the period when it was a colony ruled by the British Empire and the author provides historical background enabling the reader to form a picture of the world that James Howard Williams and Bandoola shared.
Bandoola was an Asian timber elephant and at that time these majestic animals were tasked with moving and hauling logs to the river where they were then transported to the sawmills. Williams started work for the timber company and over time built up a relationship with the oozies, the men who cared for the elephants, and a growing respect for the animals themselves. When World War 2 arrived in Myanmar the people were forced to flee from their jungle home. Bandoola and Elephant Bill then led 53 elephants and over 200 refugees to safety, scaling 6,000 ft mountains as they trekked from Myanmar to northern India and safety. That remarkable journey is the focus of this stunning book.
William Grill’s distinctive artistic style conveys the beauty of the landscape which is the backdrop to the drama and the deceptively simple appearance is based on close observation from the author’s time in Myanmar researching for the book. The limited palette consisting of shades of green is perfect for the lush jungle surroundings and for the dramatic mountains beyond. As with his previous books Grill uses his illustrations to depict facts and information extremely effectively. Alongside the stunning double page spreads of landscapes are pages with numerous vignettes describing the different biomes and the various species living in them. There are facts about the elephants and the routines involved in the work they do both before and during the war. The reader will learn a great deal of information from a close look at the illustrations.
The themes of conservation and respect for animals are of great importance as we learn of the dwindling numbers of Asian elephants still living in the wild. This is a book with an important message. Bandoola’s legacy is the effect he had on Williams and the man’s realisation that humans could live peacefully alongside animals in a spirit of cooperation and understanding.
I believe that plants and animals have an immediate sensitiveness, an awareness of loving, of what is good and what is perilous, that we humans cut ourselves off from to our own detriment, that is what the jungle has taught me.James Howard Williams “Elephant Bill”
Bandoola The Great Elephant Rescue by William Grill was published by Flying Eye Books on 1st October and I should like to thank the publishers for my review copy. This beautiful book would make a great Christmas present and can be purchased online at bookshop.org.