Book review: The Elephant and the Bee by Jess de Boer

This is the first book review in a series of six for the KU Big Read @ St George’s Library. Each of the six shortlisted KU Big Read titles will be featured in a weekly review, written by a member of the University and FHSCE community.


the elephant and the bee

A review of The Elephant and the Bee, written by Natalie Pither, a 2nd year Midwifery student

This is Jess de Boer’s first book. She was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, into a privileged Dutch family. She was inspired from an early age to want to bring about change in the world. Following university, she had a wide variety of jobs from chef to office administrator and even as a representative for Kenya in women’s triathlon.

In The Elephant and the Bee we follow Jess’s story, in her own words, covering her extensive travels as she searches for the dream job that will really make a positive impact in the world.

The style is informal and easy to read. Within the serious message that Jess wants to convey about man’s destruction of the planet, there are moments of utter hilarity. This juxtaposition is enthralling and leads the reader on page by page and chapter by chapter, always wondering how the title of the book will eventually fit into the content.

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An example from the book of an illustration and instruction

Each chapter is prefaced by a cartoon and an amusing instruction to herself about what must be achieved ‘today’. On the cover, at the end of each chapter and at the beginning and end of the book, the reader is enticed by the design of the trail of a bee to follow the story further, adding to the attraction of the book design. This certainly encourages the reader to pick the book up and read on.

During the narrative we meet Jess’s family and friends. They provide her with not only moral support but importantly an endless source of contacts offering job opportunities the world over. It is hard not to admire her gung-ho attitude each time she prepares for the first day in a new job, often with no prior experience.

I found Jess’s narration endearing and informative in equal measure and would highly recommend this book to others. I believe it would make an excellent choice for the Big Read as it is so accessible and manages to cover some really important environmental issues.*


*Since this review was written it has been announced that My Name is Leon is the Big Read winner, although we’re sure that our readers will enjoy all of the shortlisted books.


Join the discussion. Tell us what you thought of The Elephant and the Bee, or what your favourite Big Read shortlisted book is. Come by the library to borrow a copy.

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