When I saw Akimbo and the Elephants among the audiobook selections at one of our libraries last week, I snatched it right up. Before I read my first of Alexander McCall Smith’s books, I probably would’ve passed this one over. By all appearances, it isn’t something that would likely appeal to my girls. However, I wanted to listen to it, so I checked it out. I now know how adept McCall Smith is at painting word pictures of life on the African plain, so I wanted to experience his treatment of it for a younger audience. I believe the reccommended age indicated on the back of the audiobook we listened to is eight and above, and there were a few times when I thought it was getting a little too intense for my girls, but we persevered. After leaving the library, we had several errands to run, so this one hour long story was almost perfect for our time in the van. We were all so engrossed in the story that when we got home, we finished the last chapter gathered around our kitchen CD player before we did anything else. My girls typically begin shedding things (shoes, socks, clothes, etc.) the moment they walk in the door and get on with their plans, so it’s quite a testimony to the appeal of this story that they sat down at the kitchen table to listen at this juncture.
Akimbo and the Elephants is the simple story of a little boy, Akimbo, who lives on a wild game preserve with his parents. His father is an odd job man for the game wardens, and he and Akimbo are often invited to go along on various trips across the preserve. Of all the animals he has seen, Akimbo most loves the elephants. Once, on a trip with the game wardens to look for evidence of poachers, they stumble upon more evidence than they want: a dead mother elephant with her newborn calf, left alone to fend for himself. This picture makes a huge impression on Akimbo. In fact, it is a turning point in the story and his life. He determines to find the poachers and hatches quite a plot to do so. I won’t reveal the details, of course, but it involves deceiving his parents and getting involved with a local man of questionable character. It all comes out right in the end, of course, and Akimbo learns to call upon his own reserves of courage when he thinks he has none.
McCall Smith’s descriptions of Africa are beautiful, and it is a real plus that he is the narrator of the particular audiobook we had. I always think it’s interesting to listen for the little nuances that the authors give a story if I am fortunate enough to listen to a story narrated by the author. Alexander McCall Smith has quite a list of children’s books to his credit, and I would be very happy to share these with my children, especially as they get a little older. I would think that these particular stories would really appeal to boys, and they are fine writing, to boot. Highly Recommended.