Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Review Extra: Small as an Elephant

Small as an Elephant
by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Candlewick Press, 2011
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.

As I've read some of the reviews of this book on Goodreads, I've pondered on the various comments.  Some people loved it, some people didn't.  Some thought it was believable and some did not.  I guess it just goes to show that few if any books are universally loved.

This is the story of Jack, and eleven-year-old from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, who finds himself alone at a campground in Maine. His mother suffers from mental illness and has abandoned him.  Jack knows that if he tells anyone about this, he will most likely be taken from his mother, and since this has happened before, he decides to try to find her before doing anything else.  After discovering that his mother is not accessible, he decides to try to make it home.  Once he realizes just how far away home is, he decides to do something that he hopes will let his mom know he forgives her. His struggles to get enough to eat, find a decent place to sleep, keep him from admitting that he and his mother need help.  But eventually, Jack receives the help he needs.

Some reviewers think the parts about the elephants are not necessary, but I disagree.  Jack's love of elephants and the small plastic elephant he carries for most of his journey, help Jack complete his journey.  Maybe it's because I have a similar passion for horses that I can understand Jack's passion and his clinging to that passion to avoid thinking about his mother's abandonment and the feelings that go with it.  Yes, Jack does sometimes behave both older and younger than his age, but having worked with kids his age as well as younger and older, I can say that while some kids mature faster than others, but they all have moments of contradictory behavior (like many adults, too). In addition, sadly enough there are all to many children in the world who have to learn to take care of themselves far earlier than they should. I found this book an interesting, empathy-inducing read.

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