Story by AUGUSTA ROBINSON // Photos by SARAH A. MILLER
After praying for inspiration for the topic of her first book, Trolonda Terrell, 49, of Tyler, was surprised when it came from an object on her nightstand.
As a lover of elephants, a figurine of a mother elephant walking alongside a baby elephant reminded Mrs. Terrell of the trust and influence that can be shared between a mother and child – and how that bond can help children make the right decisions.
“Before I realized it, I knew exactly where I wanted my book to go,” Mrs. Terrell said.
She wanted the characters in the book to be unique, and research led her to the Borneo pygmy elephant. These elephants are smaller and shorter than other species of elephants. After about a year and a half, her book, “Danken the Pygmy Elephant,” came out in July 2016.
It tells the story of Danken – whose name comes from a combination of the names of Mrs. Terrell’s children, Danielle and Kenyale, as he lives happily in the Congo Basin in Africa. He has great friends and receives a lot of love from his mother but starts to make poor decisions when he allows another elephant named Jaz to influence him.
In the course of his journey, Danken realizes his mistakes and learns about the importance of healthy relationships and individuality.
Mrs. Terrell taught elementary students for 16 years and drew from her experiences as both a teacher and parent to show some of the dangers of peer pressure.
“It’s just about being able to tell the difference between someone who is giving you good advice and bad advice,” Mrs. Terrell said. “It’s about being very confident with yourself and not letting someone change who you are and how you behave.
“I don’t think kids always recognize how they are getting bullied now,” she said.
Along with several messages designed to help children build strong character, the book also was created to help teach them more about the Congo Basin. Mrs. Terrell said she also plans to make this book into a series.
She hopes one message is clear to children who read the book.
“I think it’s really important that kids understand healthy relationships and that people who love and care for you are not going to deter you from being a happy person,” she said.