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5th Graders suggestion for Viku

Rebecca M. Johnson School’s 5th grader’s imaginative new endings for “Viku and the Elephant”


My children’s book “Viku and the Elephant” has discussion questions at the end of the book. The 5th grade students of 2010 Milken National Award Winning teacher, Roni Gold, in Springfield, Massachusetts discussed them after reading the book in the class, and some have sent me their ideas for the last question: “Can you imagine a different ending for the story?” It is wonderful to see their imaginations take the story down a different path.

Many of them felt compassion for the bad guys and wanted to reform them. In spite of so much violence on TV, many didn’t want anyone to get killed. This message from these young students is most fascinating.

Simone and Diamond wants Viku’s elephant friend, Haatee, to be adopted by his family as a pet.

Some want the Royal Bengal Tiger to help Viku and Haatee get the bad guys. Damahya writes, “Only this time the Bengal Tiger would have Viku and Haatee’s backs and attack the thieves. Viku and Haatee will be safe.” He wants the Bengal Tiger to become a friend of Viku and Haatee. Imagine what these three friends, a boy, an elephant and a tiger, could do in the forest!

In an early draft of the story, I didn’t write what Viku’s parents did when he didn’t return home in the evening. I knew what a parent would do here, but what can Viku’s parents do? So I wrote the chapter with the flower boat. The same question came to me for Viku: shouldn’t Viku think of his parents? It is such a pleasure to see similar feelings come from a student. Damahya wants Viku and Haatee to send a banana leaf boat to Viku’s parents with a note that they are safe.

Selena wants a little more action near the end (I think she has the potential to be a movie director). She could visualize scenes as they happen: a crocodiles snaps and bites the leader. The leader tries to shoot the crocodile but forgets to put bullets in his gun so the men get eaten and die. Viku and his elephant stare at the men being eaten; then they say ‘forget about it’ and just leave and go on.

Wilfredo wants the ivory thieves to build houses and have spears to protect themselves and last longer (but he thinks they will eventually die of hunger and thirst). Khamarii imagines the thieves climbing trees and staying there, until Viku and Haatee go there. The thieves would agree to turn themselves in if Viku and Haatee do not let the alligators eat them. Debboney wants the same thing: that the ivory thieves cry for help and agree to do whatever Viku and Haatee want. Miori thinks that the alligators “who eat the guys would spit the guys out on the shore alive and the thieves promise to never try to find the graveyard again.”

Raquel wanted the crocodile to let go of the guard after chewing off one leg.

Ebonee has the most appealing ending of the story. It would be the perfect epilogue of the children’s story. She says: “Viku and Haatee get rewarded for bravery and started something to help protect elephant graveyards and other animals.” She also would not let the ivory thieves die. The two men would be found and put in jail. They would be put to do good work to help keep the elephant graveyard safe. And Viku would go on telling his great adventure stories to his family and friends.

I cannot imagine a better interaction with the children. The book was worth writing. However, my dear reader, I must tell you that the story has no violence as it may seem to you from reading this. So go on and read it and let me know how you will imagine a different ending.

I learned one thing from these responses: We sometimes think that in the modern age with all the violent video games, books of magic and fantasy, children will be different, but what I find is they are the same as children were in past generations.

From A Writer’s Blog
July 6, 2011