Monday, April 18, 2011

As Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

I've been carrying this book around with me for sometime now and had yet to even read the book flap. Knowing it was by Jennifer Richard Jacobson was enough, I didn't actually need to know what the book was about. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to discover that Maine is the setting for this heartbreakingly wonderful new release.

Eleven year old Jack goes on a camping trip to Acadia National Park with his mother just before school is about to begin. When Jack exits his small tent the morning after their first night, his heart sinks when he discovers that his mom's tent, their gear and the rental car are all gone. Jack realizes almost immediately that his mom is "spinning", his term for her manic episodes, again.

With only a few dollars in his pocket and no gear, Jack finally decides to make his own way home to Boston. He is terrified of the authorities finding out and taking him away from his mother for good. In addition, he feels ashamed that he argued with her and feels responsible for setting her off. His fear and shame are evident, but the resourceful boy finds a way to get money, food and varied modes of transportation. It is clear that Jack has learned to be self-sufficient due to his mother's illness.

Obsessed with elephants from a young age, Jack uses his fascination with the animal as a way to cope with his dire circumstances. Jacobson effortlessly weaves interesting facts about elephants into the story.

This is a fast moving story that will please fans of "Waiting for Normal" by Leslie Connor.

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