Actually set in Germany during World War Two, this novel opens with an aged woman, Lizzie, telling her life story to a young boy in her Canadian nursing home. Life had been generally good for Lizzie and her younger brother, Karl, until their father is sent away to fight on the Russian front and the war starts to get more real. Lizzie’s mother gets work as a zoo keeper to support the family but as an Allied bombing of Dresden seems imminent, all the dangerous animals have to be shot. She can’t bear, though, to see Marlene, an orphaned elephant, shot and so rescues her and brings her home to keep in their back garden! Lizzie and Karl fall in love with Marlene too and when the family has to flee the bombing, they naturally take Marlene with them. On their journey, they meet a Canadian navigator who risks his own life to save theirs.