Saturday, April 30, 2011

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

smallIt took me a while to start to like this book, but then I really began to appreciate the story, which is a testimony to the resourcefulness and resilience of children who must cope with a parent with mental illness.  11-year-old Jack wakes up in his tent on what is supposed to be the first day of a camping vacation with his mom, only to find that his mom, her tent, and their rental car (with all their provisions in it) are gone.  It’s not the first time that Jack has had to deal with his mother disappearing, so he’s really good at covering up.  He uses the little bit of money he has to buy himself breakfast at the store nearby, and when his new friend Aiden invites him along on a family outing, he fends off Aiden’s mother’s attempts at meeting his mother, and still manages to go along.  As time passes, he starts to freak out, but he’s so afraid of being taken away from his mother and made to live with his grandmother (who his mother has told him terrible stories about) that he can’t bring himself to reach out for help.  Jack is obsessed with elephants –it’s one of the things he and his mother share –and he comforts himself with remembering stories and facts about them.  When all else fails, he decides to try to get to the animal park in York that he was going to visit with his mom, to see the elephant Lydia that lives there. There’s plenty of suspense as Aiden tries to make his way home to Massachusetts, and then to York, Maine, without being intercepted by the police or any of the well-meaning adults he encounters along with way.  Review by Stacy Church

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