When Elephants Fly

Oregon Book Award Finalist

T. Lily Decker is a high school senior with a 12-year plan: avoid stress, drugs, alcohol, boyfriends, and take regular psych quizzes administered by her best friend, Sawyer, to make sure she’s not developing schizophrenia.

Genetics are not on Lily’s side. When she was seven, her mother, who had paranoid schizophrenia, tried to kill her. And a secret has revealed that Lily’s odds are even worse than she thought. Still, there’s a chance to avoid triggering the mental health condition, if Lily can live a careful life from age 18 to 30, when the condition most commonly manifests.

But when a newspaper internship results in Lily witnessing a mother elephant try to kill her three-week-old calf, Swifty, Lily can’t abandon the story or the calf. With Swifty in danger of dying from grief, Lily must choose whether to risk everything, including her sanity and a first love, on a desperate road trip to save the calf’s life, perhaps finding her own version of freedom along the way.

What some of my favorite authors and leading elephant conservationists said about When Elephants Fly

“Unlike anything I’ve read before in YA, When Elephants Fly is both a fascinating adventure and a stirring coming-of-age novel.”
—Sara Zarr, National Book Award finalist, author of Gem & Dixie

When Elephants Fly is a compelling read, one that encourages empathy in the reader, beautifully threading the complex relationship between mothers and daughters, mental illness and elephants.”
—Carrie Arcos, National Book Award Finalist, author of We Are All That’s Left

“Lily’s struggle to find light in so much darkness is the brave struggle of so many. When Elephants Fly will inspire readers to love through fear, to love themselves and their humanity, to love the world.”
—Jenny Torres Sanchez, author of We Are Not From Here

“This book was an absolute pleasure to read. Nancy balanced delicate topics with ease and entwined them in a thought provoking, meaningful read. As a young female conservationist, I encourage my generation to read this inspiration book and discuss mental illness and tolerance and the need to improve wildlife protection.”
—Katie Rowe, Pritzker Genius Award nominee, Co-Founder Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

“This book was amazing. Poignant, moving and it tugged at my heartstrings. Nancy Richardson Fischer has managed to combine so many important topics—gender identity, extinction, animal welfare, family, mental illness, and adolescence into an accessible, move and extraordinary story.”
—Ellen C. O’Connell, Executive Vice President, Global, Space for Giants

“I love this story! The author has crafted characters that are compelling and memorable, offering a heartfelt allegory of the human-elephant relationship… A captivating page-turner that’s filled with hope for both humans and elephants.”
—Patricia Sims, Filmmaker and Founder of World Elephant Day