Last chain on Billie : how one extraordinary elephant escaped the big top Carol Bradley.

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  • Additional Information
    • Publication Information:
      Large print edition.
    • Abstract:
      Summary: In the wild, Billie would have been free to wander the jungles of Asia surrounded by family. Instead, she was captured as a baby and shipped to America. For decades Billie crisscrossed the country, dazzling audiences while suffering daily neglect and abuse. Told against the backdrop of a glittering but brutal circus world, this is the story of elephants in America, the Elephant Sanctuary, and one resilient elephant who defied the system.
    • Notes:
      Includes bibliographical references (pages 499-502).
    • ISBN:
      9781410471550 (hardback)
      1410471551 (hardcover)
    • Accession Number:
    • Accession Number:
    • Accession Number:


Booklist Reviews 2014 June #1

*Starred Review* Like the majority of captive elephants, Billie was captured as a calf, surfacing in the U.S. in 1966 as a four-year-old. After several years in a private zoo, she joined the circus, where she was trained to perform. Circuses are an extremely demanding environment for elephants, with constant travel from one town to another, multiple shows per week, and continuous noise. Although she learned difficult tricks and was a star, Billie rebelled and began to be known as a difficult elephant, gaining a reputation for attacking her trainers. Meanwhile, two former elephant trainers had grown disenchanted with circuses and the distorted lives that circus elephants lived, and they decided to found a sanctuary for former performing elephants in Tennessee. The story of how Billie got to the Elephant Sanctuary, and of how the sanctuary overcame the prejudices of both the circus and zoo communities, is both heartrending and uplifting. Full of details of the brutal life endured by performing elephants, of battles between Billie's owner and the U.S. Department of Agriculture over her ultimate fate, and of Billie's eventual adjustment to a life of freedom, Bradley's newest (after Saving Gracie, 2010) has produced a well-researched winner. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

PW Reviews 2014 June #2

Journalist Bradley (Saving Gracie) chronicles the bitter-sweet life of Billie, an Asian elephant abducted in the wild and forced into the cruel world of circus performing. In 1972 Billie was purchased by Chicago millionaire John Cueno Jr. for his exotic animal menagerie, and for decades hauled across the country to perform in circus after circus, working the "same mind-numbing routine." In 1996, when Billie and two other elephants finally enter retirement at one of Cueno's facilities, they are met with more dismal conditions. When Billie is finally relinquished in 2005, she is sent to the Elephant Sanctuary where former trainers Carol Buckley and Scott Blais begin the slow process of her mental and physical recovery. Interspersed throughout, Bradley recalls American history's most famous elephants, stories marred by tragedy, like Topsy, electrocuted by Thomas Edison in 1903, and Big Mary, hanged by a crane for killing a trainer in 1916. She concludes with the shady dealings of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. The mistreatment of circus elephants, historically and presently, has been detailed elsewhere, but every animal's story is important and Billie's features a rare happy ending. (July)

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