An Elephant in the Garden Summary & Study Guide

Michael Morpurgo
This Study Guide consists of approximately 46 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of An Elephant in the Garden.
This section contains 736 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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An Elephant in the Garden Summary & Study Guide Description

An Elephant in the Garden Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Morpurgo, Michael. An Elephant in the Garden. Feiwel and Friends, 2011. Kindle Edition.

A nurse at an elderly living facility brought her son, Karl, to the nursing home. Karl befriended one of the patients, a frail but spirited woman named Lizzie. Lizzie decided to tell a story to both Karl and his mother.

Lizzie was born in 1929 in Dresden, Germany. She grew up with her mother, Mutti, her father, Papi, and her brother Karli, who was eight years younger than her. Although she had a happy childhood, her life changed once World War II began and Papi was drafted into the army and sent to France. During the war, Mutti began working at a zoo and caring for the elephants. She named one of the newborn elephants Marlene and became very close with her. When the zoo director grew worried that the animals would escape the zoo in the event of a bombing by the Allied forces, he allowed Marlene to move in with Lizzie’s family and live in their garden. The family loved living with Marlene, but one night she ran away while they were taking her for a walk. As they looked for her, Allied bombs began falling and destroying the city. The family ran for safety and eventually made it to the edge of the city, where there were fewer bombs. While they were running, Marlene appeared and joined them.

The family walked on a road with other refugees then left to travel through the woods on their own. Although they almost froze to death, they eventually made it to their Aunt Lotti’s and Uncle Manfred’s home. Their relatives were not there, but they found a Canadian soldier in the barn whose aircraft had been shot down. Although Mutti was initially angered by the presence of the enemy, the family quickly befriended the pilot, named Peter, after he rescued Karli from falling through the ice in the lake. When police officers came to the house, Mummer protected Peter by pretending he was her son.

Mutti, Lizzie, Karli and Peter all traveled together at night and away from roads. When they did meet other refugees or soldiers, Marlene helped draw attention away from the family. Peter foraged for food and used his compass to guide the family. Peter and Lizzie were falling in love, but no one noticed except for Karli.

Karli fell very ill and the family desperately knocked on the door of a house they passed, looking for a doctor. The house was owned by a kind woman called Countess, who had converted her home into a shelter for war refugees. The family was very happy living there, but the groundskeeper Hans wanted them to leave. When Karli dropped Peter’s compass while juggling on top of Marlene, Hans examined it and noticed the English writing. He decided to turn the family in to the police, but Countess warned them in time to escape. As the family was preparing to leave, police entered the home, but Countess convinced them that nothing was wrong.

The family returned to the roads, taking a group of schoolchildren with them because there was insufficient food in the refugee home. Singing together and playing with Marlene helped keep everyone’s spirits up until, after several weeks, they saw the Allied forces. Marlene was spooked by the sound of the army’s tanks and ran away. Despite trying to find her for days, the family never saw her again. They also had to say goodbye to Peter, who promised he would write and continue looking for Marlene.

The family lived in a refugee camp for more than six months. They then moved in with Mutti’s cousin in the city of Heidelberg. They did not hear from either Peter or Papi, and Karli grew depressed because he missed Marlene.

One day, Peter arrived from Canada and he and Lizzie got married and moved back to Canada together. Karli came to live with them years later. Papi returned from a prisoners’ camp in Russia four years after the war ended. One summer evening after Peter and Lizzie had been married for years, they saw a circus and believed they saw Marlene performing. Lizzie gave Peter’s compass to Karli, and he told her that he had always believed her story.

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