Friday, October 10, 2014

Small as an Elephant

Small as an Elephant
Jennifer Richard Jacobson
3.5 / 5

Published 2011

First Paragraph
"Elephants can sense danger. They're able to detect an approaching tsunami or earthquake before it hits. Unfortunately, Jack did not have this talent. The day his life was turned upside down, he was caught unaware."
Publisher's Description:
Jack’s mom is gone, leaving him all alone on a campsite in Maine. Can he find his way back to Boston before the authorities realize what happened?

Ever since Jack can remember, his mom has been unpredictable, sometimes loving and fun, other times caught in a whirlwind of energy and "spinning" wildly until it’s over. But Jack never thought his mom would take off during the night and leave him at a campground in Acadia National Park, with no way to reach her and barely enough money for food. Any other kid would report his mom gone, but Jack knows by now that he needs to figure things out for himself - starting with how to get from the backwoods of Maine to his home in Boston before DSS catches on. With nothing but a small toy elephant to keep him company, Jack begins the long journey south, a journey that will test his wits and his loyalties - and his trust that he may be part of a larger herd after all.
Dear Reader,

This was an adorable and uplifting little book. It's a middle-grade book, which means it's aimed toward pre-teens. Which also meant that it was a quick read, but I quite enjoyed it. It follows the adventures of Jack, who wakes up on the first day of his camping trip to find that his mother has abandoned him - not an unusual occurrence with this woman, apparently. So Jack decides (after waiting for a bit for her to return) that it's up to him to get himself home. He refuses to ask for help because he is concerned that he will get taken from his mother. Which, yes, we all believe that he should be taken away from this woman who won't even care for her own son! But Jack is afraid because his mom is the only caretaker he's ever known, and she's effectively isolated him from the rest of their family. So if he gets caught and they realize he isn't being properly taken care of, he worries about being sent to live with his grandmother or to a foster home. So his fears make sense (he is only eleven, after all!), so he sets out on a journey from an island off the coast of Maine to his home in Boston.

The characters Jack encounters in his travels are great: the gruff farm woman, the sweetheart Big Jack, the reckless teenager he rides with for a bit (to name only a few). They all stood out well and really made the story have great variety and depth. And Jack really does seem like a smart and upstanding kid: he cleverly gets his way out of scrapes and is very resourceful in his avoidance of stealing from others as much as possible.

My favorite part of the book, though, was its focus on elephants: every chapter started with a little factoid about elephants, and I learned so many neat things! (Just ask my fiance, who had to listen to me read him something almost every chapter!) I don't particularly love elephants more than other animals, but I do think they are pretty darned cool creatures - and even more so now!


Small as an Elephant

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