Whit's Summer Adventure: Feeding Elephants

Whit, the hero of DON'T FEED THE BOY, lives at the zoo with his parents. He's lonely a lot of the time, and it's a long, hot, summer -- but when he makes a new friend (Stella), he realizes sometimes it's kind of cool to be the son of zookeepers. It allows him behind the scenes zoo adventures. Like feeding elephants.

Stella watched as Whit retrieved a bucket from the long line of hooks. "So how do we do this?"

illustration by Stephanie Graegin
Don't get too close," he instructed. "Let Lila do all the work. It's good for her to stretch. Safer, too." Whit relaxed his fingers and held out the apple in his flattened palm. "That trunk is composed of tens of thousands of muscles. Lila here can pick up a penny with that trunk. Or pull a tree right out of the ground."

Stella grabbed a carrot and held it out to Lila. Her eyes widened as Lila curled her trunk around it and pulled the carrot from her hand. "It tickles."
Want to have an interactive zoo experience of your own? Here's a list of zoos that offer (for a price) all sorts of special animal encounters, as compiled by Mental Floss magazine.

And here is a link to pictures of my family's Baby Tiger Experience at the Gulf Shores Zoo (Alabama). Enjoy!


Irene Latham often writes about animals. She is the award winning author of two novels for children LEAVING GEE'S BEND and DON'T FEED THE BOY. She also serves as poetry editor for Birmingham Arts Journal and has published three volumes of poetry for adults. Her current focus is on poetry for children with the 2014 release of DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST, which was named an SCBWI Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor book, and two 2016 titles: FRESH DELICIOUS and WHEN THE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA. 


  1. What fun! This looks like a winner, Irene!

  2. I'd think it would be VERY cool to be the son of a zookeeper!


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