A Worthwhile Visit from the Author of Elephant Speak

What were you doing in 2014?

Five years ago, Roger Henneous granted author and friend Melissa Crandall permission to begin work on a book that would detail his life and experiences with a special herd of elephants at the Oregon Zoo. Writing a biography takes incredible patience, and finishing one takes true dedication. Alongside its spirited author, Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd enjoyed its first appearance in the spotlight this October at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Fall Tradeshow. During the “7 Coming-Up” author showcase, Melissa shared with booksellers the story of how she met Roger and the elephants’ former matriarch, Belle (read the speech on Melissa’s blog). Fresh advance reader copies had their spines stretched one by one as Melissa signed first pages and gave copies away with her thanks to all the attendees, many of whom shared connections with the Asian elephants of Portland.

While many Ooligan authors reside in the Pacific Northwest, Melissa currently lives on the other side of the country, in Connecticut. From Ooligan’s perspective, she existed solely on the other end of email threads and phone calls until her recent visit to Portland, which became an important turning point in this book’s journey. Melissa visited with Roger and his family, celebrating the book’s role in strengthening their friendship. She then spent a full day working with elephants Rose-Tu (daughter of Me-Tu) and Shine (previously Sung-Surin and current herd matriarch) and their present-day dedicated keepers. By the time I met Melissa for the PNBA Tradeshow the following morning, her clarity of purpose was rejuvenated by the joy of these reunions. As a result, so was the purpose of Ooligan and Elephant Speak.

With four months to go until publication, it is a wonderful thing to be excited about this book. The major tasks ahead of us depend on that excitement. Before the holidays, Elephant Speak will be proofread and the interior design will be finalized (all photos included!). Project management tasks will consist largely of communicating with those who are contributing blurbs and reviews, building awareness of the book on social media, and planning the book launch alongside Melissa’s tour of Oregon bookstores and other locations in March. I am grateful to have a team of people who, having just read the book for the first time, understand the story’s leading themes of sacrifice, love, camaraderie, and growth, all of which continue to guide our positioning of Roger’s story within the larger context of animal caretaking practices, human-animal bonds, and wildlife conservation.

Thanks to the strong start given to this book project by my talented predecessor, Monique Vieu—along with the enthusiastic support of our long-distance author and the newly admitted excitement of Roger himself—we can now look forward to the final steps of preparing Elephant Speak for its winter debut.

Ooligan, on three! That is, March 3, 2020.

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