Two of Billie's former trainers are prolific bloggers, Bradley said. "I was able to piece together quite a bit about Billie through their posts. I found a treasure trove of information in the archives of the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, including newsletters that reported all sorts of gossipy anecdotes. "
To locate historical accounts, Bradley pored over old trainers' memoirs and searched the archives of the Museum of Natural History in New York. She attended an Elephant Managers Association conference and visited several zoos.
"Information about USDA's role came largely from government records kept on file by PETA," Bradley said. "USDA claimed to have destroyed them."
Today, roughly 800 elephants are still being hauled from city to city to entertain Americans. Their plight is gut-wrenching and, like the author, readers will come to understand elephants in a whole new light.
"I'm astonished at elephants' intelligence and exquisite sensitivity -- how fragile their psyches are, how easily traumatized," Bradley said. "They experience so many of the same emotions as humans. And the saying is true: they never forget."