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Description - Whistling for the Elephants by Sandi Toksvig

There are two basic types of animal in Nature's Kingdom. The first, like lions and turtles, produce many offspring and simply hope that some will survive. The second, like elephants and people, produce one or two at long intervals and make great efforts to rear them. My mother belonged in a class of her own. She produced two at short intervals and made no effort to rear them whatsoever. Thus Dorothy, aged ten, finds herself making her own way in Sassaspaneck, New York in 1968. Her English father, who never talks above a whisper due to a youthful injury with a cricket ball, has tucked her and her mother away where the potential for embarrassment can be limited. All the other children in town have gone to camp, so Dorothy must provide her own entertainment. She comes across a small, faded zoo on the outskirts of town, and as she begins to get to know the eccentric group of women who live there she begins to discover a world way beyond the one she has glimpsed so far.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780751532869
ISBN-10: 075153286X
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 134mm x 21mm)
Pages: 304
Imprint: Sphere
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 7-Mar-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions - Whistling for the Elephants by Sandi Toksvig

Book Reviews - Whistling for the Elephants by Sandi Toksvig

UK Kirkus Review » Toksvig, a very interesting woman, is now the author of a very interesting book about woman. Whistling for the Elephants concerns Dorothy, a ten-year-old oddity from what would now be termed a dysfunctional English family. But this is 1968, before family secrets were aired in public, when restraint, stiff upper lips and 'not in front of the children' were the order of the day. Father is physically unable to raise his voice above a whisper; Mother rarely leaves her bedroom except to travel, in which case she never leaves her stateroom. Dorothy, left to her own devices, her brother being dispatched to boarding school 'because he had been clever enough to be born with a penis', assumes boy's clothes, a short back and sides, and the ability to enjoy her own company. This all changes when financial ruin causes Father to sequester the family in small-town suburban USA, a move which causes Mother to retreat further into pills and finally escape, and Father to drown his sorrows permanently in the drinks cupboard. Salvation comes in the shape of a run-down zoo filled with a half-crazed cast of anachronistic but strangely powerful women, all of whom accept Dorothy for what she is. Or at least for what she is capable of becoming. The fight to save the zoo becomes the fight to save Dorothy. Toksvig has retained the imagination of childhood with the acerbic wit and gleeful irony of the writer and performer we know. There is such a gallery of eccentrics, including some of the most anthropomorphic animals you'll ever meet in grown-up fiction, that the story often becomes confusing. However this is a minor carp because I loved this book and found its climax and Dorothy's triumph an exhilarating journey. Review by Maureen Lipman, author of 'Lipreading' (Kirkus UK)

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Book Review: Whistling for the Elephants by Sandi Toksvig - Reviewed by (13 Jan 2013)

Whistling for the Elephants is the first adult novel by Danish/British comedian, author, and TV presenter, Sandi Toksvig. In 1968, 10-year-old Dorothy Kane finds herself on a slightly bizarre ship journey from Southampton to New York with a mother who has made no effort to rear her children. Once in New York, her stiff English father takes his wife and daughter 50 miles upstate to the small town of Sassaspaneck on the Amherst River. Before long, Dorothy finds herself labelled a freak by the neighbourhood children and exposed to all the craziness of American life in the late sixties. Boating, hard-drinking, fire-fighting, BBQing and illegitimate mixed race babies all form part of life. Dorothy discovers the local zoo with its exotic inhabitants, both animal and human, and the fantastic house built there in the 1920s. To her delight, she acquires a nickname (Sugar) and through the reminiscences of various locals, she learns of the excesses and the tragic events of the original zoo owner and those close to him. Toksvig builds this tale to a climax that involves a confrontation between, on one side, the mayor, the dog catcher, the town football team and the fire-fighters, and on the other, six strong-willed women, a resourceful 10-year-old girl, a gander, an orangutan, two elephants and a grey parrot. Moving and funny.

Author Biography - Sandi Toksvig

Following a first-class degree from Cambridge, Sandi Toksvig went into the theatre as a writer and performer and was a founder member of the Comedy Store Players. Well known for her television and radio work as a presenter, writer and actor, she has written six books for children.

Books By Sandi Toksvig

End of the Sky by Sandi Toksvig
Hardback, August 2017
Silver Lining by Sandi Toksvig
Paperback, February 2017
Slice of the Moon by Sandi Toksvig
Paperback, August 2016
Hitler's Canary by Sandi Toksvig
Paperback / softback, January 2015