Kasem lives in Thailand, in an elephant camp situated in a mountain valley not far from the coast. His father, Kovit, is a mahout who takes tourists on elephant treks up the mountain.
I'll always look after you,' Karem says to the little elephant. But will Karem be able to keep his promise?
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About the Author
Janeen Brian is the author of many books including three CBC Notable Books, Dog-Star, Duck Down and Rocky, and the popular Aussie Nibble, Party Time.
Perhaps his father was going to be the little elephant's new mahout? Kasem felt a pang. How wonderful it would be if he could have that job!
Kasem and the elephant were about the same height, but patches of brown-red hair on the animal's trunk showed that it was still young. Where was its mother? And why had the men bothered to secure it with a leg-rope? The elephant seemed very weak. It shuffled jerkily on the dusty ground as if at any minute its legs would buckle.
'What happened to this baby?' asked Kovit.
Kasem glanced up. Now that he'd had time to look more closely, he'd seen the deep cuts and scars on the elephant's flanks. Part of its left ear was missing, too.
'We found her about twenty kilometres north of here,' said Mr Taman. 'She'd been part of a wild herd. Somehow she was jammed between two trees. I think she'd been there a while.'
'Why didn't her mother knock down the trees to get her out?' Kasem asked. But the moment he spoke, he realised he should have held his tongue. The men would think him impolite, bursting in on their business. He ignored Pravat's deliberate nudge.
Luckily, Mr Taman smiled at him. 'A good question. We could see that the area had been trampled. So the elephant's mother, and probably her aunties, had all tried to save her. But the trees were too big for them to move.'
Kasem imagined the elephants' distress. Their trumpeting would have shaken the trees and echoed among the mountains.
Pravat nudged him again, and then whispered behind his hand, 'Let's go fishing. We don't want to stay around here on the first day of the school holidays. We might be given a job, like shovelling up elephant droppings.'
'Wait,' said Kasem. Something was going on. The men were talking and nodding.
Pravat gave Kasem an impatient look. 'Stay if you want, but I'm off to have fun.' He turned to go. 'See you!'
Kasem hesitated. Did he want to go with Pravat, or stay?
Mr Taman looked around. 'Pravat has gone?' he asked, surprised. 'Well, Kasem, I thought I would have to make a choice between you two boys, but now I won't have to. This is the tourist season, as you know. We have many bookings for elephant treks already. How would you like to look after this little one during that busy time? Your father would supervise you.'
Kasem felt as if all the air had left his chest. 'Me?'
Kasem wanted to throw his arms around Mr Taman, but he knew that would not be polite. So he stood still, hands clasped. When his father gave him a questioning look, he nodded, his eyes wide and shining. He'd make both men proud of him!
'Has she got a name?' he asked, darting a joyful glance in the little elephant's direction.
'No, not yet,' replied Mr Taman. 'When she is given to her new mahout, he will name her. If they are to be trained properly, the animals must learn only one name. You understand?'
'Yes, Mr Taman.'
But Kasem already had a secret name for the elephant. He would call her Pooky.
'Good. Now to work.' Mr Taman patted Kasem on the shoulder and strolled off.
Kasem couldn't believe his luck. He'd feed and wash the little elephant and help her grow strong. Overcome with excitement, he stretched out his hand. He'd only meant to pat her, but she lifted her trunk and gave a thin, high-pitched wail.
Kovit pushed Kasem's hand away and frowned at him. 'She's young, hurt, and still wild,' he said. 'Do not make sudden movements.'
'I'm sorry, Por.' Kasem felt hot with shame. He had much to learn. One day he would be a good mahout, like his father.
'The elephant must always be able to trust you, Kasem,' Kovit went on. 'That is what is important. That, and caring for it. Now, go and collect food for her. Perhaps one banana. Give it as a treat.'
Kasem nodded so hard that he felt his head would wobble off his neck. Once his father was gone, he whispered, 'You can trust me, Pooky. I'll always look after you, I promise.' And he hurried off to gather an armful of leaves and grass.
Series: Aussie Bites Ser.
For Ages: 6+ years old
Number Of Pages: 96
Published: 4th February 2008
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 19.800 x 13.1 x 0.700
Weight (kg): 19.9
Edition Number: 1