"A book filled with heart, with character, with inspiration; "Hannah's Dream" is story-telling perfection. By far the best book I have read in ages, it is sure to strike a chord in every reader's marrow."
--Posted on ReaderReportBlog
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"I just finished Reading "Hannah's Dream." I could not put it down, nor did I want it to end. Every character was fabulous and at the end of your most beautifully written book, I wept so deeply for Sam and Hannah. Thank you so very much for an incredible story. I cannot wait for your next one."
--Jenn M., Westport, MA
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"I can't say strongly enough how much I loved this book! For me, it was all about the characters. I simply fell in love with each of them and became immersed in their story. From Johnson Johnson the eccentric artist to Truman the precise and careful accountant, Neva the expert elephant handler and Sam the intuitive one, even Miles the pig was irresistible! I was not ready to let any of them go by the end. This is a funny, generous, warm book that will leave you feeling good."
--Denise, posted on the blogs librarything.com, powells.com and barnesandnoble.com.
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"This is a love story--a story that shows the power of hope, the power of dreams, and one that illuminates one of life's bittersweet lessons--that sometimes true love involves letting go of the object of your love."
--William C. Hall, posted on Amazon.com
There is a growing movement among national and international animal rights and animal welfare organizations to pressure zoos—and aging zoos like my fictional Biedelman Zoo, in particular—into letting their elephants go to sanctuaries, where they will have more room, companionship and healthier living conditions. As elephant populations in the wild become increasingly threatened, the issue of appropriate captivity will only get hotter. And this isn't true only for elephants, but for what Neva terms "charismatic mega-vertebrates"--elephants, killer whales, dolphins, gorillas, polar bears and wolves. Yet these are signature animals for many of the world's zoos and aquariums. They bring visitors in droves.
A recent survey by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ directors’ elephant workshop found that over 40 zoos and institutions with elephants in their collections plan to begin renovations or construct new facilities within the next five years.
I will no doubt be asked where I stand on the issue of elephant captivity. Like Neva, I am neither anti-zoo nor anti-captivity. I believe deeply in the educational mission of zoos and animal parks, and feel that they play a critical role in the preservation of species that are becoming increasingly embattled in the wild. I also have the greatest admiration for the men and women who devote their lives to the hard work of caring for the animals in their charge.
Inevitably, the US facilities that keep elephants vary widely. Some zoos have expansive, state-of-the-art facilities that meet their resident elephants' needs and then some. Others, like my fictional Max L. Biedelman Zoo, are old, inadequate, and lacking the enormous resources necessary to upgrade their elephant exhibits. There is no one right answer to the appropriate care for the nation's elephants.
Having said that, I have enormous respect for the Elephant Sanctuary in Hoehenwald, Tennessee, led by Carol Buckley, and other facilities where circus elephants as well as zoo animals can find a lush haven. Many of the resident animals come from inadequate, if not downright abusive, backgrounds and find at these sanctuaries a relative paradise. Solitary animals like Hannah regain an elephant community as nourishing as any food. These facilities can't serve all the elephants in need, but for the animals lucky enough to find new homes there, they mean a whole new life.
Hannah's Dream was selected as an Indie Next Notable Pick by independent booksellers for October!
Starred Booklist Review
American Library Association June 16, 2008:
On the animal kingdom’s 10-point scale of adorable critters, Golden Retriever puppies regularly come in on top, while aging gray elephants rarely make it onto the list. But when it comes to lovability, Hannah, the sole elephant at Seattle’s dilapidated Max L. Biedelman Zoo, is off the charts. Rescued as a baby by the zoo’s founder while on safari in Africa, Hannah has been cared for by Samson Brown for her 41-year captivity. Theirs is an empathetic, symbiotic relationship as Samson transfers all the love deflected by the death of his only child into caring for this slightly needy, somewhat neurotic, but always affectionate creature. But Samson is aging and his health is failing, and the zoo needs a plan. Enter Neva Wilson, an energetic young zookeeper whose creative ideas for Hannah’s well-being immediately puts her afoul of Harriet Saul, the zoo’s petty, tyrannical administrator. To save Hannah’s life, Samson and Neva scheme to transfer her to an elephant sanctuary, though their plan comes with great personal risk. Irresistibly touching, delectably uplifting, Hammond’s understated yet gargantuan tale of devotion and commitment poignantly proves that love does indeed come in all shapes and sizes.
— Carol Haggas
"Diane Hammond writes with heart, compassion, and humor. With subtle assurance, she invites you to fall in love with Sam and Winslow and Neva and Corinna and Truman and Max and, of course, Hannah, the beloved elephant that ties them all together. A generously told tale that will stick with you long after the last page is turned."
— Terry Gamble, author of bestselling books Good Family and The Water Dancers
From 1995 to 1998 I was lucky enough to work with an ailing killer whale named Keiko—the star of the movie Free Willy—and the staff that rehabilitated him. The Keiko project had all the makings of an epic story, with heroes and villains, huge sums of money made and spent, complex issues and passionate declarations, organizational politics, and public and private struggles over control and recognition, often played out on the front pages and television sets of major media outlets around the world.
At the center of the vortex was Keiko himself, a luminous soul who burned more brightly each month as his health was restored; and the handful of men and women who spent hours in an icy pool to swim with him, pet him, challenge him, play with him, teach him, and be taught by him. (Many of the staff also joined him not only for the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas, but also spent countless evenings with him, watching action movies, wrestling and old episodes of Mayberry RFD on a donated wide-screen TV.) From Keiko’s keepers I learned the extraordinary lengths to which good people will go—often without recognition—for the sake of their animals. Keiko’s was, in the end, a love story.
When the killer whale was moved to Iceland in fall 1998, and my part in the project ended, I thought I would write about the experience, or at least about some of the issues and conflicts it raised, but the story was simply too close. So I let the idea go, and wrote Homesick Creek, instead.
Then, in 2001, I stumbled on television footage of a man named Solomon James, Jr., unshackling for the last time the Asian elephant he had taken care of for 22 years. Her name was Shirley, and he had just transported her from the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo to the Elephant Sanctuary in Hoehenwald, Tennessee. He was struggling to maintain his composure as millions of people watched their parting on television. It was clear that theirs had been a long and complex journey. Out of this remarkable moment, and informed by my experience with the Keiko project, Samson Brown and Hannah were born.
More Feedback from Readers
"I just finished reading Hannah's Dream and had to let you know how much I loved the book.
I cried and cried. A truly beautiful story with a perfect happy ending. These characters will stay in my heart, soul and mind forever. I like to imagine what they are doing since Hannah's move.
"I work at a Borders Express in Hanover, Massachusetts and when I saw this book arrive, it caught my eye immediately. I have a special place in my heart for elephants as my late mother loved the animal and was an avid elephant (knick knack) collector. I didn't get to read the book right away but my co-worker, Joey Mitchell did and she couldn't stop talking about it so I put down the other book I was reading and started Hannah's Dream. Needless to say, I could not put it down!! I will recommend this to all my customers and everyone I know!
"If you are ever in Massachusetts, I know my store would love to host a booksigning for you.
The store manager is Cheryl Crimmins and the phone is 781-826-8526. Joey and I are already handselling the book to our customers.
"Thank you for writing this tender and loving book."