Published by Candlewick Press on Mar 8, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, MG
Format: ARC from Gift
Find the book: Amazon, Goodreads
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.
This was a surprisingly delightful story. I was expected a serious tearjerker, it’s about a boy whose mother leaves he alone after all. There were definitely tears at the end of the story, but the rest of the story was more about hope and Jack’s ability to fend and think for himself.
I think there were emotions and elements of the story that stuck with me more than the target young YA reader would understand. For that reader, there is survival and confusion about why this was happening to him. There were unexpectedly good things and good people, as well as interesting little tidbits about Jack’s obsession with elephants. As an adult and a mother, I saw all those things, but also how a parent’s behaviour and mental well-being directly affect your child and their thought processes. I saw that it is possible for small tragedies to occur, and yet for there still be an overall feeling of hope and positivity. After all, Jack is really young to be by himself, and yet he managed to not only feed himself, he also travelled a great distance, and all while managing to not get abducted, abused, or even encountered seriously bad people.
Overall, I was highly impressed at the this story. While it may be aimed at a younger audience, it still tackles mental illness in a very realistic and compassionate way. It’s a story that will resonate with all readers, regardless of age, and is well worth picking up.