Title Profile & Character Information

When the Elephants Dance

Annotation
A startling debut from a talented new young writer, WHEN THE ELEPHANTS DANCE is a riveting epic about a family and their neighbors who band together to survive the brutal Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II, as the Americans fight to gain control of the war-ravaged island. Based on the experiences of her father, who was a young boy in the Philippines during World War II, Holthe's story begins during the final week of the ferocious Japanese-American battle for possession of the Philippines. Here, we listen to three distinct narrators who reveal the struggle to survive in a small community outside Manila, where the streets are littered with dead bodies and the threat of capture by Japanese soldiers is around every corner. First, thirteen-year-old Alejandro Karangalan and his younger brother leave the safety of the basement where his family and others are hiding to go look for food for their family and medicine for their ailing father. They are caught by Japanese militants and wrongly accused of murder. Meanwhile, Alejandro's older sister, Isabelle, has been missing for days. As the family fears for her safety, Isabelle is met with the choice of avoiding a Japanese patrol or helping an injured guerrilla commander, whom she believes is responsible for the brutal Japanese counterattacks on their people. Her decisions lead her through a maelstrom of events that leave her stripped of her soul. At the same time, Domingo Matapang, the passionate guerilla commander, is torn between his pivotal role of helping his troops defeat the enemy, or protecting the lives of his wife and child. Will he follow the path of a warrior and a future with his soulmate, Chita, a feisty double agent, or the path of a provider for his wife Lorna and his beloved sons? As the war rages outside, five tales of hope and superstition unfold in the cellar. The stories, which are fueled by the myths and superstitions that were told with reverence in Holthe's Filipino household, help the civilians endure the atrocities and find hope in the midst of chaos.

Awards
2002  School Library Journal Best Books of the Year

Characters
NameDomingo
GenderMale
TraitsFilipino
Married
Father

GenreFiction
Historical
Political
War
TopicsWorld War II
Japanese occupation of the Philippines
Survival
Storytelling
Folklore
Resistance movements
Moral dilemmas
Power of love
Hope
SettingManila, Philippines