The Girl Who Stole an Elephant

by Nizrana Farook (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

Chaya, a nobleman's rebellious, outspoken, no-nonsense daughter, just can't resist the shiny temptations the king's palace has to offer. But playing Robin Hood for her impoverished community doesn't come without risks, and when Chaya steals the queen's jewels from a bedside table--a messy getaway jeopardizes the life of a close friend. After an equally haphazard prison break, Chaya barely escapes on the king's prized elephant! With leeches and revolution lurking in the jungle, Chaya leads her companions on a thrilling adventure. After leaving her village as a thief, can she return as a hero? Or will Chaya's sticky fingers be the beginning--or the end--of everything for the intrepid gang?

Own Voices debut author Nizrana Farook spins a page-turning middle grade tale in a lush, fictional Sri Lankan setting. Just right for adventure fans, the book explores themes of friendship and loyalty, risk and reward, and heroism.


Farook's debut is a perfect example of how to keep a novel action-packed while simultaneously developing characters and coloring the world.... Inspired by Farook's own early roots in Sri Lanka, the vibrant island-country setting is so lush you can practically picture the greenery and taste the tropical breadfruit....lovers of animals and adventure are in for an entertaining ride.

School Library Journal

Gr 4-6--Being chased through a jungle by the King's guards is just one of the dangers facing Chaya, the 12-year-old Sri Lankan heroine of Farook's fast-paced and exhilarating novel. After stealing the Queen's jewels (in a Robin Hood scheme) and the King's royal elephant, Chaya escapes into the jungle with her two friends Neel and Nour. She is a brave and spirited girl who will stop at nothing to save her friends and her village from the King, who cares more for his own riches than his villagers. Along the way, Chaya frees Neel from the palace prison, confronts leeches, teaches Nour to survive in the jungle, and stays one step ahead, physically and mentally, from her pursuers. One of the many delights of this novel is the sparkling description of Chaya's rural Sri Lankan village, including the many references to colorful fruits and trees. More rewarding is Chaya's growth. While her intent is honorable, her theft jeopardizes the lives of her friends and family, but over the course of her journey, and with the support of strong secondary characters Neel and Nour, she develops more empathy. VERDICT A rich and joyful adventure story for those who enjoy daring escapades in a fairy-tale setting.--Shelley Sommer, Inly School, Scituate, MA

Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

In the island kingdom of Serendib, 12-year-old Chaya--"medium-brown complexion, hair in a long plait"--is the daughter of the village headman, "a minor official of the King," and serves as her village's own Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to help the impoverished in her village of Nirissa. This time, she's managed to pull off her biggest heist yet: requisitioning the queen's jewels. But when her best friend Neel, 13, a carpenter's apprentice, is convicted of the robbery, confesses, and is sentenced to be executed within "about 20 hours," Chaya is desperate to rescue him. Soon, however, breaking Neel out of the palace's underground prison is the least of Chaya's crimes when she steals the King's prized elephant, Ananda, as their getaway vehicle. Accompanied by Nour, the daughter of a wealthy merchant "from the land of deserts," the friends ride Ananda into the jungle, with the king's guards in hot pursuit. Filled with lush descriptions of the South Asia-inspired landscape and delicious food, debut author Farook weaves a fast-paced, if at times tonally uneven, adventure against a backdrop of political upheaval. Ages 8-12. (Mar.)

Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Nizrana Farook
Nizrana Farook was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the beautiful landscapes of her home country find their way into the stories she writes. She graduated from Bath Spa University with an MA in Writing for Young People and lives in England with her husband and two daughters.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Peachtree Publishers
Publication date
March 20, 2021
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV037000 - Juvenile Fiction | Fantasy & Magic
JUV002080 - Juvenile Fiction | Animals | Elephants
Library of Congress categories
Action and adventure fiction
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

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