Boy in for adventures after escaping tsunami with elephant

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 June, 2010, 12:00am

Running Wild
Michael Morpurgo
Published by HarperCollins
ISBN 9780007267019

Michael Morpurgo's new novel is a thrilling and thought-provoking epic adventure set in the jungles of Indonesia. Authors pick up ideas from everywhere, and Morpurgo was inspired to write Running Wild after reading about a boy who escaped the terrible 2004 tsunami by riding into the jungle on the back of an elephant.

The best-selling author had always wanted to write a jungle adventure with a majestic elephant, his favourite childhood animal, as one of the central characters.

Running Wild begins at an emotional peak; its first chapter will bring tears to your eyes. Will is a normal English boy who suddenly has to face up to the unthinkable. His father, a professional soldier, is killed in the Iraq war, and Will and his mother are devastated.

The boy's kind grandparents secretly book a holiday in Indonesia for Will and his mum, hoping a different environment might help the healing process. This trip is an escape, a new start and a chance to forget the horror of Dad's death.

One of Will's Christmas presents is an elephant ride along the resort's beach. On Boxing Day, as Mum is swimming in the sea, Will is introduced to Oona, his elephant for the day. But as he is riding Oona along the water's edge, she is suddenly spooked by something and charges off into the jungle. Will clings on for dear life as the frightened elephant runs further and further into the jungle.

Having escaped the tsunami, Will is now lost in the jungle with nobody to depend on except himself and Oona. He becomes an 'elephant's child', learning how to survive under Oona's guidance.

When he is separated from Oona, Will lives for a time with a group of infant orang-utans whose parents have been killed by hunters. The villainous Mister Anthony, animal hunter and exploiter of the jungle, makes an appearance. Morpurgo uses this episode to great effect, making the reader think about the consequences of rainforest destruction.

Running Wild is another triumph from a master storyteller.