book cover Queenie
by Corinne Fenton, illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe

Picture book | 24 pp | Years 5-6

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[ Developing values | Overview | Author and illustrator profile | Useful websites |
Focus questions]

Developing values


  • Animals in captivity can help us understand, value and protect animals in the wild.
  • Every person and every creature deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.
  • Respect develops through knowledge and understanding of new and different concepts and situations.


  • Humans can have a positive or negative effect on habitats and, therefore, animal and plant survival.
  • We all have a responsibility to do what we can to live in harmony with nature.
  • Individuals can make decisions and take appropriate actions to help conserve the environment.
  • It is possible to think globally and act locally.


Seeing the elephants is a highlight of a trip to the zoo for most of us. Imagine then, the excitement of not only seeing one of these magnificent creatures but being able to ride on its back!

A hundred years ago, for thousands of children (and not-so-children) in the Melbourne area, a trip to Melbourne Zoo was the treat of the year, and a ride around the zoo in the howdah on Queenie's back was more than worth having to get scrubbed clean and wear your best clothes.

Queenie: One elephant's story by Corinne Fenton, tells the story of this remarkable elephant which trod the Trail of the Elephants around Melbourne Zoo for more than forty years, and the pleasure she gave to so many.

But beyond being the simple biography of an elephant, Queenie forces us to think about the ethics of keeping wild animals in captivity, their role in providing humans with amusement and entertainment and what we can learn from Queenie's story 100 years on.

Author and illustrator profiles

Corinne Fenton is a Victorian author who has written several books for primary school children. When she first heard about Queenie, she knew the story had to be told and she spent more than four years researching and writing it.

In an interview with the Age newspaper in August 2006, Ms Fenton said, 'It [Queenie's death] was a bad decision. She deserved some tender, loving care, somewhere nice to live and to be looked after.'

You can find out more about Corinne's life, her writing and her passions by visiting her website at

Peter Gouldthorpe is an award-winning illustrator who specialises is creating intricate, detailed and realistic artwork for picture books for older readers.

You can see more of his work in titles such as The Lost Diamonds of Killiecrankie, Hist!, The Wonder Thing, Grandad's Gifts and First Light. In 1994, he won the Children's Book Council Picture Book of the Year Award for First Light.

He now lives in Tasmania.

Useful Websites

Smithsonian National Zoological Park

World Wildlife Fund or

Taronga and Western Plains Zoo

Queenie the Elephant

Trail of the Elephants, Melbourne Zoo

IUCN Red List

Humane Society International

Focus questions

Before reading the book

This story is called Queenie: One elephant's story but it is not a story of an anonymous elephant in a herd that you might see on Discovery Channel. Queenie was a very different elephant and had a very different life. This is her biography.

Use Peter Gouldthorpe's illustration on the front cover to answer these questions and focus your thoughts on the story you are about to hear.

  • Where does Queenie live?
  • How do you know?
  • Is this a scene that you are likely to see if you visited a zoo today? Why? Why not?
  • What clues suggest that the story might be set in another time?
  • Why do you think this elephant's life story was so important that Corinne felt she had to tell it?

During and after reading the book

As you read the story, consider these questions:

  • Why might the hunters have been trying to trap and capture elephants?
  • What was everyday life like for most Australians 100 years ago?
  • Would Queenie have had a better life if she had remained free?
  • Was it fair for Queenie to take revenge on those who teased or hurt her?
  • Was what happened to Queenie in the end justified?
  • How have your opinions about keeping wild animals in captivity been confirmed or changed by reading Queenie's story?
  • How do Peter Gouldthorpe's illustrations help you to understand the story?

© Curriculum Corporation 2006