Is it true that an elephant nevers forgets?

This inspiring, true story about Shirley, a former circus elephant may shed light on this question.


Shirley's Story

Mary Helen Blanchard, an educator with over 30 years teaching and writing experience, teamed up with life-long friend and illustrator, Sue Brunner, to tell this fascinating and factual story about Shirley the Elephant. As a young mother and teacher, Mary Helen would take her 3 children and classroom students to visit the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe, Louisiana. There they would see lonely Shirley, with her crooked leg and torn ear. When Shirley was moved to The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee in 1999, the event made front page headlines in their hometown...especially when the news of Shirley's reunion with a younger elephant unfolded. The two elephants seemed to remember one another. After some research it was discovered that the two elephants had been in a circus together over twenty years before their reunion!

Mary Helen and Sue knew that this story had to be told in a format for children. They teamed up to bring this heart-warming story to children in a picture book format with beautiful watercolor illustrations. Children and animal lovers of all ages will love this true story that calls us to question our perceptions about these magnificent mammals.

As well as the uplifting story that will entertain and inform children, the book contains a timeline for use by teachers and parents that documents Shirley's remarkable life. In addition, there is a 'food for thought' page that outlines positions pro and con for keeping elephants in captivity versus keeping them in the wild that will stimulate discussion with young and old readers alike. And last but not least, the book features a coloring page that teachers and parents can copy for their young readers to enjoy.

Shirley's Story - The Heart Always Remembers! is a must read for anyone who has ever been interested in these peaceable pachyderms and wants to be inspired and learn more about them!



Mary Helen Blanchard

School and Library Information

Mary Helen Blanchard is available for book readings and signings as well as hands-on activities that are related to Shirley's Story. Activities involve integrating math, science, social studies, art, and literacy and include some of the following:

  • Comparing and contrasting Asian and African elephants
  • Estimating and measuring sizes of elephants
  • Making timelines and math word problems
  • Making 'elephant noses' and exploring how elephants use their trunks
  • Discussion of the pros & cons of keeping elephants in captivity vs. the wild

Contact Information


Fees and Expenses

Mrs. Blanchard is also available for professional development workshops for teachers and parents on The Power of Story: Using story to integrate literacy strategies throughout the curriculum.

  • Half-day - $250
  • Full-day - $500
  • One hour teacher or parent workshops - $100/session