Children's Book Recalls Zoo's Last Elephants
By Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press, August 12, 2016
The Detroit Zoo's last two elephants -Wanda and Winky - made headlines in 2005 when their retirement to a sanctuary in California sparked an international
conversation about how elephants fare and sometimes suffer in captivity.
Winky was euthanized in 2008 at age 56 because of arthritis complications, and Wanda met the same fate in 2015 at 57, both dying presumably very happy to have left Michigan winter behind . Now the two have been immortalized in a new children's book being launched from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. today at Jen's Gifts of Love, 4280 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield . Retired Walled Lake Schools teacher and library media specialist Linda McLean, who lives in Commerce Township, will be there with illustrator Susan VanDeventer Warner of Walled Lake to sign their books priced at $12 each and aimed at ages 5- 12.
The 38-page book has a blend of poetry and prose, McLean said. For younger fans, the book has "elephant talk, every other page," McLean said. Older ones will latch onto the "elephant facts" section at the back of the book, "if they're doing a term paper," the author said. This is McLean's second book for children. Her first, in 2007, was titled "The Heidelberg Project: A Street of Dreams," and introduced young readers to the quirky outdoor art installations and the artist who created them on Detroit's near east side. She self-published both books, McLean said. "Wanda and Winky" is dedicated to Detroit Zoo Director Ron Kagan, who was both cheered and criticized when he declared that Detroit must give up its elephants because its winter cold created inhumane conditions and they should not be housed on concrete pads in confined areas. Kagan arranged for the two aging elephants to be shipped to PAWS - the Performing Animal Welfare Society, in San Andreas, Calif .It was at PAWS where the duo suddenly found themselves traipsing across dozens of acres of natural terrain under California sunshine, then sleeping in large living quarters equipped with heated stalls and therapeutic Jacuzzis. When the duo was shipped west, the Free Press sent along a reporter and photographer, and their report on the animals' dramatic lifestyle shift generated the headline,
"Pachyderm Paradise: Girls · Doing Great." McLean said she had delivered a copy of the book to Kagan's office but she was unaware if he had seen it. She
planned to donate a portion of the book's proceeds to the Detroit Zoo. In addition, the author said she'd give $1from the saleof each book to PAWS.And she will donate another portion to S.O.U.L., an Oakland County charity that helps needy individuals. With so many donations planned, she'll be left with "a pittance" from writing "Winky and Wanda,"McLean said with a laugh, but also with "the joy of doing it," she said.
Contact Bill Laitner: 313-223-4485 or firstname.lastname@example.org .