The Elephant in the Room

By Holly Goldberg Sloan


It’s been almost a year since Sila’s mother traveled halfway around the world to Turkey, hoping to secure the immigration paperwork that would allow her to return to her family in the United States.

The long separation is almost impossible for Sila to withstand. But things change when Sila accompanies her father (who is a mechanic) outside their Oregon town to fix a truck. There, behind an enormous stone wall, she meets a grandfatherly man who only months before won the state lottery. Their new alliance leads to the rescue of a circus elephant named Veda, and then to a friendship with an unusual boy named Mateo, proving that comfort and hope come in the most unlikely of places.

A moving story of family separation and the importance of the connection between animals and humans, this novel has the enormous heart and uplifting humor that readers have come to expect from the beloved author of Counting by 7s.


Book Reviews

    • “A gorgeous and emotional novel. I loved every page.”—Cynthia Kadohata, Newbery Medal-winning author of Kira-Kira
    • “Using multiple narrative perspectives, [Goldberg Sloan] touches on many weighty topics (grief, autism, deportation, animal cruelty), handling each with sensitivity.”—Booklist
    • “Sloan captures the importance of compassion and bravery when facing life’s challenges . . . themes of collectivity and community in the face of isolation and stigma are brought to the surface and themselves offer depth to this heartfelt and sincere story.” —Kirkus
    • “Sloan (To Night Owl from Dogfish) fully builds the emotional interiors of each character, including Veda. This heartfelt tale thoughtfully conveys the agony of family separation, the beauty of nature, and the power of friendship to overcome tremendous difficulties.” —Publishers Weekly

Main Characters


…lives in Oregon, which is where she was born. She goes to middle school and lives in an apartment with her parents, who were born in Turkey and have settled in America.


…is Sila’s mother. She works cleaning rooms in a hotel in town. She has to return to Turkey to complete her immigration paperwork.


…is Sila’s father. He works as a mechanic and goes out in the countryside to fix a truck belonging to…


…who has recently won the state of Oregon lottery. Gio took some of the prize money and bought a very large piece of property outside of Eugene, Oregon. After Gio meets Sila, he decides to buy…


…a circus elephant who has spent her life in trailers as part of a small traveling circus.


…Goes to middle school with Sila. They become close friends when Sila takes him with her to Gio’s property to meet Veda the elephant.