The best books for elephant lovers

Who am I?

I’m a Sibert Honor author and write books for kids and teens about nature. Ever since I saw an elephant skull on the savanna in Kenya, I’ve been fascinated by elephants. When my daughter was an undergrad, she worked with Katy Payne and the Elephant Listening Project, and I knew I had to write about ELP’s astounding work—one of the only groups working with forest elephants. I hope you enjoy the QR codes in Eavesdropping on Elephants. Katy and her colleagues were very generous with their work. The more I write the more I discover our connections to our natural world that humble me and fill me with gratitude. 

I wrote...

Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation

By Patricia Newman,

Book cover of Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation

What is my book about?

Deep in the Central African Republic, forest elephants trumpet and rumble along with the forest’s symphony. And scientists like Katy Payne are listening. Katy started Cornell University’s Elephant Listening Project to learn more about how forest elephants communicate and what they’re saying. Poaching, logging, mining, and increasing human populations threaten the survival of forest elephants. Katy and other members of the Elephant Listening Project’s team knew they needed to do something to protect these majestic animals.

By eavesdropping on elephants, the Elephant Listening Project is doing its part to save Africa’s forest elephants and preserve the music in the forest. Includes QR code videos to see and hear elephants the way Katy did. Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature Best Children’s Books of the Year.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants

Why did I love this book?

After discovering that whales sing to each other, Katy turned her attention to elephants. Silent Thunder chronicles Katy’s work before she founded the Elephant Listening Project. In essence, it is the prequel to Eavesdropping on Elephants. Katy’s evocative prose puts you on the plains of Africa. I love the way she approached her research without any preconceived notions and let the elephants tell her what was important.

By Katy Payne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Silent Thunder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A natural history rich in observation of the animal world and how humans participate in it, Silent Thunder is also a passionate story of scientist Katy Payne's spiritual quest as she turns a keen eye on her role in this world. Starting with the story of her revolutionary discovery that elephants use infrasonic sounds-sounds below the range of human hearing-to communicate, Payne shares what she learned from her fascinating field research in Africa, research that reveals new insights into elephants' social lives. When five of the elephant families she studies are the victims of culling, Payne's approach to her research…

Book cover of Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family

Why did I love this book?

Cynthia Moss is a giant in the world of elephant research. Like Katy Payne, Moss has a beautiful writing style that gives you a peek inside the complex dynamics of elephant relationships. With Cynthia, we celebrate every success and shed tears at the many ways elephants are harmed by human habits. The dedication and passion of field scientists always amazes and inspires me.

By Cynthia J. Moss,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Elephant Memories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Cynthia Moss has studied the elephants in Kenya's Amboseli National Park for over twenty-seven years. Her long-term research has revealed much of what we now know about these complex and intelligent animals. Here she chronicles the lives of the members of the T families led by matriarchs Teresia, Slit Ear, Torn Ear, Tania, and Tuskless. With a new afterword catching up on the families and covering current conservation issues, Moss's story will continue to fascinate animal lovers.

"One is soon swept away by this 'Babar' for adults. By the end, one even begins to feel an aversion for people. One…

Book cover of A Passion for Elephants: The Real Life Adventure of Field Scientist Cynthia Moss

Why did I love this book?

As an author of children’s books, I love to share what I’m passionate about with kids. As you read Elephant Memories by Cynthia Moss, give A Passion for Elephants to the children in your life. Imagine the terrific discussions you can have about Cynthia’s adventures sharing two books about the same person. You’ll be able to supplement the kids’ knowledge with some startling facts of your own.

By Toni Buzzeo, Holly Berry (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Passion for Elephants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A science and nature biography of Cynthia Moss, the elephant expert, by the author of Caldecott Honor book One Cool Friend

Cynthia Moss was never afraid of BIG things. As a kid, she loved to ride through the countryside on her tall horse. She loved to visit faraway places. And she especially loved to learn about nature and the world around her. So when Cynthia traveled to Africa and met the world’s most ENORMOUS land animal, the African elephant, at Amboseli National Park in Kenya, she knew she had found her life’s work.

Cynthia has spent years learning everything she…

Book cover of The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

Why did I love this book?

Lawrence Anthony faced an unimaginable choice. Accept a rogue herd of elephants at his South African reserve or allow them to be shot. Although The Elephant Whisperer also comes in an adult edition, I chose the young readers adaptation (ages 10-14) because of the opportunity to share common interests with the children in your life. Kids will learn to protect the planet by following our example. Lawrence’s story will stick with you for a long time.

By Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Elephant Whisperer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of "rogue" wild elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd's last chance of survival: they would be killed if he wouldn't take them. In order to save their lives, Anthony took them in. In the years that followed he became a part of their family. And as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he came to realize that they had a great deal to teach him about life, loyalty, and freedom.…

How to Be an Elephant

By Katherine Roy,

Book cover of How to Be an Elephant

Why did I love this book?

Katherine Roy’s beautifully illustrated picture book includes lots of fun information for elephant lovers. We follow an infant elephant as he learns how to survive on the plains, including his place in the family, how to walk and use his trunk, how to communicate with the herd, and how to stay cool in the scorching sun. A unique portrait of an elephant’s life.

By Katherine Roy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Be an Elephant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Africa is not an easy place to live, even for the enormous elephants that call it home. Foraging for food and water and fighting off predators are only a few of the many skills that these giants must acquire as part of the long learning process that begins immediately after birth. Thankfully, they have a large familial network in place to teach them how to wash and drink and whiffle and roar - everything they need to know about how to be an elephant. Award-winning author-illustrator Katherine Roy's How to Be an Elephant delves into the intricate family dynamics at…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in elephants, Kenya, and Africa?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about elephants, Kenya, and Africa.

Elephants Explore 48 books about elephants
Kenya Explore 49 books about Kenya
Africa Explore 222 books about Africa

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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