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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The KU Big Read has come to St George’s Library and we are looking for FHSCE staff and student volunteers to help us spread the word!

Big Read Insta draft

The Big Read is a project developed by Kingston University which has run with great success for the last few years. The project has a vision of using shared reading to build relationships and foster community spirit. In previous years, the selected book has been used for public engagement, as a catalyst for starting conversations between colleagues, students and staff, and to explore themes related to Higher Education and specific subject areas.

What: We need volunteers to read and review one of six shortlisted books in 150-500 words and also write a short sentence recommending why others might enjoy the book. We will post this review on the St George’s Library blog.

When: The books have arrived in the library and are ready to be picked up and read. Depending on your commitments, you will have 4 to 8 weeks to review.

Why: This is an opportunity to start a conversation through shared reading and be a part of an exciting project.

How: The deadline to put your name forward is midday Friday 17th March. If there is lots of interest we will pick names out of a hat and let you know by Monday 20th March. Please send your name, what course you are on or you job title, and, if you have a preference, what book you would like to review. You should be an FHSCE student or staff member based at St George’s, University of London.

To register your interest or if you would like to know more about this project, please contact the library at liaison@sgul.ac.uk

For more information about the KU Big Read and the shortlisted books check out the KU Big Read website.

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