The Great Elephant Chase

Written by Gillian Cross
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley Freya Sutcliffe

1881, Pennsylvania. Fifteen-year-old Tad is mistreated and exploited by everyone, including the creepy Hannibal Jackson, a man with a nose for money. When Mr Kennan’s show brings Khush the elephant to town, Tad bunks off to see him. Then a twist of fate finds him on the run with Khush and young Cissie Kennan – hotly pursued by the avaricious Jackson, who will stop at nothing to get Khush.

I’ve never visited America, and I hadn’t a clue where they were, but I was completely hooked by their adventures: dangerous river rides, Cissie’s absolute determination to get to her friend Ketty in Nebraska (wherever that was), hair’s-breadth escapes, and Tad’s growing concern for Khush’s health. Their journey is inward and emotional as well as physical; Tad and Cissie have things to learn about themselves and each other.

Gillian Cross has won the prestigious Carnegie Medal, and one can see why. Not only is the book nail-bitingly exciting, it’s also concerned with the big questions in life: right behavior and the ability to endure in the face of greed, cruelty and exploitation.

Originally published in 1992, this is a new edition for a new generation. Children of 10+ will love it.

Elizabeth Hawksley


I really enjoyed The Great Elephant Chase. You immediately feel part of the story, as if you’re making your way up the Missouri River with the two children, Tad and Cissie, and Khush the elephant. You feel on edge the whole way through, wondering whether they will make it before Hannibal catches up.

I liked how both children were so different: Tad, very quiet but persistent, coping with the stubborn and decisive Cissie. And I particularly loved the whole idea of running away and having to hide from pursuers – not an easy thing to do accompanied by an elephant!

Freya Sutcliffe, age 12