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Publisher's Summary

J. H. "Billy" Williams always had an affinity for animals. So, when he responded to a job offer with the East India Company to work with logging elephants his family wasn't surprised, though they were worried. He had already come back from World War I in one piece; would he be so lucky with India? Not only did he find his calling with the elephants in India, Billy and his elephants became war heroes.
At the onset of World War II, Williams formed Elephant Company and was instrumental in defeating the Japanese in Burma and saving refugees, including on his own "Hannibal Trek". Billy Williams became a media sensation during the war, telling reporters that the elephants did more for him than he was ever able to do for them, but his story has since been forgotten. Part biography, part war story, and part wildlife adventure, Croke delivers an utterly charming narrative and an important, little-known piece of the legacy of World War II. Vicki Constantine Croke has been covering pets and wildlife for more than two decades. She has anchored NECN-TV's The Secret Life of Animals and wrote the Boston Globe's "Animal Beat" column for 13 years.
©2014 Vicki Constantine Croke (P)2014 Recorded Books
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Patrick on 04-15-15

Story of Friendship, Loyalty, and Bravery

Croke tells the story as if it comes naturally, and she recalls Williams’s tale like it happened yesterday. The book captured my interest from the start, with Williams being atop his favorite elephant while battling severe sickness. It's not a suspenseful tale, but the descriptions of the jungle and the extremes of life that entails with it are enough to maintain curiosity. Some fascinating facts about elephants are also revealed, such as the sense of smell can be 5 times stronger than a bloodhound.

There's not as much emphasis on the WW2 events as I expected. This shouldn't detract the reader though, it's still worth reading.

Overall: This is a good uplifting read.The narrator was great and fit the part perfect. I recommend not so much for WW2 buffs, but more for a good story involving elephants and a man who cared deeply for them.

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114 of 114 people found this review helpful


By Deborah Jacob on 06-21-15

Shards of Beauty

Jim Williams was undoubtedly a kind and remarkable man who cared about elephants, but even with his reforms and guidance, Elephant Company can be a difficult story to love simply because of its exploitation of elephants for the benefit of British colonial teak companies. I felt as though I held my breath all the way through this book. There are beautiful passages and the story is well written. I found the subtitle a bid misleading because the war only begins 70% of the way into the book. That is why I gave it a four. With all its tense moments and questionable treatment, I do feel that we would all be terribly deprived not to have ever known the magnificent elephant Bandula. There are invaluable lessons about our relationship with animals, and there are questions about how fair we are to working animals. Needless to say, the last 1/2 hour of the book brought a flood of tears and a feeling of great loss in many ways. The narrator is remarkable.

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51 of 52 people found this review helpful

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