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Walking with the elephants of Dublin Zoo

Dublin Zoo Elephants By Catherine de Courcy, Illustrated by Cathy Callan Associated Editions (2013) €7.95 *****

Not just for the children, this beautiful book is informative and enjoyable for the grown-ups in the house too.

Callan's stunning illustrations accompany de Courcy's vivid and direct text and you'll feel that our zoo's elephants are part of your own family by the end of it. There are new elephant babies due in 2014 and 2015, which is extremely exciting for the zoo.

Catherine did her MA in International Zoo History in 1990 in Australia; in 2009 she wrote the history of Dublin Zoo. She answered a few questions about how the book came to be.

What drew you into doing a book about elephants?

When I was researching Dublin Zoo's history, I relaxed by watching the elephant herd. With the help of the keepers, I learned a lot about the elephants' body language, about their personalities, their instincts and habits, their relationships with each other and the ways in which the keepers enrich their lives in Dublin Zoo.

I wanted to share this information and was delighted when the Zoo agreed to the creation of a family book about the elephants.

How did you approach this story?

I wanted to present this information in a way that was accessible and of interest to families who are looking at the elephants from the paths at The Kaziranga Forest Trail.

I created a story by following the elephants' lives from early morning to night time, with a diversion to include the births of Asha and Budi.

The book is written for 7 to 11-year-olds, and there's a reference section that is suitable for independent readers at the older end of this group.

When did the illustrator join the process?

The text was complete when Cathy Callan joined us. She spent time with the keepers studying the elephants and taking photographs so her images are accurate and support the text.

But there is also a wonderful magic in Cathy's work that really brings the elephants and their story to life.