The book is Faithful Elephants: A True Story of Animals, People, and War by Yukio Tsuchiya.
Summary: During World War II, Japanese officials decided that all of the "dangerous" animals at the Uneo Zoo in Tokyo, Japan needed to be killed. Their reasoning was that if the zoo were to be bombed and the cages were ruined, the animals would not injure the people of Tokyo. After killing many of the more dangerous animals, it was time to kill the three performing elephants at the zoo. The elephants would not eat poisoned food, and their hides were too tough to puncture with needles, so they were starved to death. It was a long and brutal death and although the zookeepers did not agree, they went along with it. This book was based on a true story.
About halfway through reading the book, most of my classmates either had tears in their eyes or looks of disgust upon their faces. Our professor recommended that we only read this books to fifth graders and above, and that the book could be used to show the other side of war. Personally, I could never, ever, read this book to children. I feel that it could possibly be used in upper levels (middle to high school) in a World War II unit, but even then, I probably couldn't read it. The language of the book is horribly descriptive and the illustrations are even more vivid.
What upset me most of all was that my professor mentioned that she read the book to a classroom of students after many of their parents had been deployed in the Gulf War. The purpose was to show them that negative effects of war. I was shocked. How could that be an appropriate use for this book??? When used in that context, it makes military men and women look like cruel elephant killers. Is that the message we should give children about their parents? Especially while their parents are deployed. I understand that we should view both sides of every conflict, but I do not think that it was an appropriate time or place for it. I also know that many people do not agree with wars, and you are entitled to your opinion. However, I feel that my professor chose an inappropriate time and place to read this book.
What do you think? Have you read the book? Do you think my professor picked a good time to read the book? Do you think that all books can be read at any time, or do you think that certain books should only be read at certain times?