Reviews provided by Syndetics
School Library Journal Review
Jack wakes up in Acadia National Park to discover that his mother has abandoned him. Wavering between panic, despair, and anger, he tries first to find her, hiding from authorities. When that proves futile, he sets out on a harrowing journey to see Lydia, the only live elephant in Maine. As Jack travels, he slowly reveals his mother's "spinning episodes" and his fear of being separated from her. Dufris's raspy voice turns in an emotional performance that demonstrates Jack's resentment, panic, and pain. Both the Acadia National Park (www.nps.gov/acad) and Elephant Facts (www.elephant-facts.com) websites provide interesting additional information about the central themes of the story. Standard: Students will be able to describe the characteristics of large land mammals (i.e., the elephant) and understand the history and mission of the National Park Service. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* This simply written but emotionally rich tale of an 11-year-old boy abandoned by his bipolar single mother will kindle profound responses in young readers. Waking up in a campground on Maine's Mount Desert Island to find his mother gone, Jack's initial worry is tempered by the knowledge that she has vanished before during episodes of what he calls her spinning times. But now she has left him with little more than his clothes and a few dollars in his pocket. Justifiably afraid that he will end up forcibly separated from his mother if he seeks any adult help, he sets out on foot for their Boston home. Jacobson credibly reconstructs his route and thought processes as his increasing physical exhaustion mirrors his inner turmoil, and he tries to stay out of sight while finding food and shelter over several days. The trek ends on a less believable but ultimately satisfying turn; Jack is finally caught after his fascination with elephants prompts him to change course in hopes of seeing Lydia, the only live elephant in Maine, and a youth worker who has been searching for him actually takes him for a visit before contacting the authorities. Though Jack's mother never does appear, she does exert a strong presence on the tale by being constantly on his mind and in his memories. Each chapter is introduced with a quote or fact about elephants, mirroring Jack's obsession with the animal, illuminating aspects of the boy's identity, and harmonizing with the events of his journey. A deeply perceptive look at the universal fear of abandonment, and how one child copes with a damaged parent.--Peters, Joh. Copyright 2010 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Jack Martel is obsessed with elephants. He knows everything about them. He knows that "even when in danger, a mother elephant would not leave her calf." But Jack's life is turned upside down when his own mother disappears during their camping trip on Maine's Mount Desert Island. What's an eleven-year-old boy to do? He has little money, home is too far away to walk, and the messages he leaves on his mother's cell phone go unanswered. He can't go to the police because he knows his mother is not quite right, with her manic, spinning, "pinwheel" behavior, and if he tells anyone she left him, he might end up in foster care. His instinct is to protect her and wait for her to come back, but when she doesn't return, Jack sets off on a series of desperate misadventures, sleeping in churches and stores and the backs of trucks. He thinks he's all alone in the world, not realizing that the whole state of Maine is searching for him. Jacobson has great success putting readers inside Jack's not-always-thinking-things-through mind, and by the end of the story, nicely tied together by the elephant theme, Jack comes to realize that he hadn't been alone, that family and people he didn't even know were there for him in a "makeshift herd." The happy yet realistic ending leaves Jack (and readers) "light-headed with hope." dean Schneider (c) Copyright 2011. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Book Review
Eleven-year-old Jack is older than his years; he has to be. His mother, suffering from an unnamed mental disorder, has left him behind again. This time he is in a campground on Mount Desert Island in Maine, far from his Boston home. When he wakes up, there is no sign of his motherno rental car, camping gear or food.Jack only has his cell phone (which his mother is not answering), $14, a tent and his love of elephantsa near-obsession that gives structure to his otherwise chaotic life. Because Jack is used to his mother's manic behavior, he quickly goes into survival mode, figuring out ways to get food and coming up with plans to get home to Boston while evading curious adults. Jack's mother has told him what will happen if he gets turned into the authorities: He will be put into foster care or, worse, sent to live with his maternal grandmother. While there are moments when Jack's journey relies on coincidence, and his ability to elude intervention stretches credibility slightly, Jacobson masterfully puts readers into Jack's mindhe loves and understands his mother, but sometimes his judgments are not always good, and readers understand. His love and knowledge of elephants both sustains him and pleasingly shapes the story arc. Jack's journey to a new kind of family is inspiring and never sappy.(Fiction. 10-14)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.