What's in it for Me? - Summer is only a month away, but things aren't going according to plan for fifteen-year-old Nick Bannerman. Nick dreams of making it big in music, and summer means scoring a deal for his band, mega parties, surfing in Tofino--and not much else. His best friend, Trevor, wants him to spend the summer with him in Africa building a school with a changemaker organization, but Nick isn't at all interested. Unlike Trevor, Nick has no interest in global activism, volunteering, or physical labour. So how does a teen like Nick, intent on being a famous rock star, end up in Thailand volunteering at an elephant refuge?
Meanwhile, in glimpses from Africa, Trevor learns about Kenyan culture and language from twelve-year-old local boy, Kito, and encounters child soldiers who threaten the young boy's family.
Back at the refuge, Nick meets sixteen-year-old Camila, an intimidating and self-assured local girl who wants to be a mahout, even though local tradition won't allow it. When Nick encounters an extreme animal rights activist, drugged tigers, and rampaging elephants, will he have the courage to act and care about more than just himself?
With themes of: elephants, global activism, animal rights and welfare, social activism, volunteering, feminism and female empowerment, coming of age, and the complex and controversial topic of elephant captivity, What's in it for Me? is an excellent middle-grade novel to spark classroom discussions.
Chapter 9 -Nick (Thailand)
"Bringing home strays again, hey Mum?" The girl who greeted us at the compound had a booming voice. "Who's this bloke, then?" She was hosing down a young elephant. The saggy, grey skin around his face and shoulders was splattered with faint patches of red, blue, green, and yellow, and he had his trunk wrapped loosely around her waist.
"That's my daughter, Camila," Anna said to me, then raised her voice to answer her daughter. "This is Nick, from Canada. He'll be staying with us for a few days before I take him with me to Chiang Mai. "
Compared to her mother's milk-white skin, Camila's skin was brown and she had shoulder-length dark hair, razor-sharp cheekbones, and big, dark brown eyes. I guessed her father might be Latino. When she sauntered toward us, the elephant made a noise like a trumpet in protest of her leaving. Her gaze was direct and serious, as if daring you to try and cross her--it made me feel uncomfortable and want to look away.
"Canada, eh?" Camila eyed me up and down as if she were taking measurements. "It's been a while since we've had a Canuck here. "
"Oh, you like hockey?" I said, referring to a Canadian hockey team--the Vancouver Canucks.
I guess she wasn't a hockey fan because she curled her top lip into a sour face, like I'd just said something really stupid.
"Watch your back!" Camila suddenly pushed me to swing around.
Behind me a very large elephant lumbered past with a Thai man astride it like a horse--except there was no saddle, and the man straddled its neck, not its back. On its two long tusks were speared several large bales of hay.
"Never turn your back to an elephant," Camila said, "especially not to the males. "
"What's wrong with the males?"
"Nothing's wrong with the males. " The tone of her voice was beginning to bug me.
"Many of them have been mistreated and learned to be quite aggressive and unpredictable. " She pointed to the elephant that had just passed. "That one killed his abusive owner. If it wasn't for us, he would have been shot by the authorities. "
"A fascinating story that will entrance young readers from the first page to the last. I couldn't put it down. From a glimpse into the disturbing world of Kenyan's child soldiers to the heart-warming workings of a Thai elephant rescue centre, Stone weaves a coming-of-age-story like no other. "-Julie Burtinshaw, award-winning author, Saying Goodbye to London
"I felt transported with Nick and Camila to beautiful Thailand for this fun and exciting elephant adventure that had me grinning in delight or transfixed on the edge of my seat. LS Stone's writing is full of humour, but doesn't shy away from shining a light on complicated topics like elephant captivity and tourism, and female rights and empowerment. A mesmerizing first novel for LS Stone. " -Chantal Hughes, author/contributor, Breaking Boundaries: LGBTQ2 Writers on Coming Out and Into Canada
"What's in it for Me? is a perfect fit for entertaining young readers while introducing them to important topics of animal welfare, social justice, and global activism. I also really appreciated the depiction of Camila, the strong, self-assured female character. Once I started reading, I didn't want to put the book down!" Lisa King, Teacher -Librarian