Monday, February 01, 2021

Book Review: The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan


Title: The Elephant in the Room
Series: -
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Publisher: Piccadilly Press
Genres: Middle Grade, Children
Format: Paperback
Expected Publication Date: March 2nd 2021
Pages: 250

Synopsis (Goodreads): It's been almost a year since Sila's mother traveled halfway around the world to Turkey, hoping to secure the immigration paperwork that would allow her to return to her family in the United States.

The long separation is almost impossible for Sila to withstand. But things change when Sila accompanies her father (who is a mechanic) outside their Oregon town to fix a truck. There, behind an enormous stone wall, she meets a grandfatherly man who only months before won the state lottery. Their new alliance leads to the rescue of a circus elephant named Veda, and then to a friendship with an unusual boy named Mateo, proving that comfort and hope come in the most unlikely of places.


My rating: 3 / 5 ★

The Elephant in the Room is a heartwarming and pleasing story about a young girl who had to face a long separation from her mother, and found comfort in befriending an old man who won the state lottery, a circus elephant called Veda, and an autistic boy named Mateo.

I consider the story to be quite delightful. I like Sila's character; she was definitely upset about being separated from her mother and it changed her bright personality to quiet and reserved in school, but ever since befriending her three new friends, I feel that she tried her best to have a more positive outlook on her life. There was a reason why Gio, the old man, was so keen to get to know Sila more, and the reason between their friendship was rather bittersweet.

I also like the fact that Sila tried her best to let Mateo just be himself. I have no personal experience with an autistic person; the closest that I have would be a friend's brother. The boy is entirely sweet when we met, but I only spent little time to know him so I wouldn't say I know anything much regarding autism. I am aware that there are different spectrum of autism, and I appreciate the author by approaching the matter through Sila's eyes. There were times where Sila couldn't get Mateo at all, or his reactions annoyed her, but she did her best to try to understand the fact that his way of dealing with the world is different than hers. And that's how the greatest friendship is built—by the efforts of understanding each other's differences.

I would say that those are the things that made this book a pleasant read. However, I will have to continue this review with several things that didn't sit right with me. 

I will start with the fact that this book is a story about a Turkish girl, written by a white person. Sure, Sila is considered an American citizen since she was born in the country, but her parents are Turkish and the fact that this was written by someone entirely not of the race is a bit iffy. I did read the author's bio mentioning that she used to live in Istanbul, but that definitely did not mean she could use the Turkish identity simply because of that. Not to mention the fact that Sila "supposedly" speaks Turkish with her parents at home, but not a single Turkish word was ever mentioned in the book. She even called her parents "mom" and "papa". The author could have at least used the word mom and dad in Turkish, which was the least that she could do.

I also find it hard to swallow that the author tried to make Sila someone very American. There was a moment where she noticed that her favourite sweater was the colour of the American flag, and it all just feel weird to me. Sure, in reality, someone like Sila is allowed to be proud of being American however she wants. But this book is written by someone clearly non-Turkish, and for her to write about a Turkish girl to be proud of being American just sounds demeaning. 

And then there's Veda, the elephant. I love animals, and I love stories with animals in it, but Veda's case is a bit weird to me. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with the elephant—she's just a sweet circus elephant that was rescued and the main reason why Sila could bond closer with Gio and Mateo. Somehow, the author decided to include chapters from the perspective of the elephant herself. And that, is where it gets weird. I know animals do have feelings and memories too, but writing it down in the way a human would react or feel, feels too weird for me. I would've understood if the main character is Veda, but it's not. This is my personal thought though, someone else might have found Veda's chapters to be heartwarming. I just felt that it did not serve any purpose to the story.

Overall, reading The Elephant in the Room was relatively easy. Although I did enjoy the storyline, there were things I couldn't accept, and I didn't really fancy the author's writing style either. It was too descriptive and there were many info-dumping, which sometimes made me want to skim over everything. This would still be a good book for young readers that wish to slowly get into reading though, because the language is rather simple. Many thanks to Pansing for sending me this ARC in exchange for my honest review. The Elephant in the Room is set to be published on 2nd of March 2021.


One of the rules when she went with her dad on work trips was to approach everyone she met not just with respect but also with caution. You shouldn't trust someone, she had been taught, until you really knew the person.

Till next time ♡ Love, Aishah Humaira'

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