11 year old Jack Martel wakes up on the first morning of vacation at Acadia National Park to discover his mother is not there. While most other children his age would be panicked, at first Jack seems very able to cope with this turn of events. He gets food for himself, and keeps busy playing on the beach. The one thing he doesn’t do is tell any of the adults that could possibly help him - he’s afraid that he will be taken away from his mother for good.
Jack hopes that his mother will return, but eventually starts to come up with a Plan B. Maybe she had an accident and can’t get back to him. He’s not so sure he even wants to see her, anyway. So Jack sets out to search for his mother. Despite having no money, no cell phone, and no means of transportation, Jack proves to be pretty resourceful. He is able to evade adults who get too close, and even picks up clues about his mother. Jack also reflects on how this isn’t the first time his mother has left him, and his resolve to find his mother begins to waver. Although we never meet his mother in the book, Jack’s memories hint to mental illness as the source of her erratic behavior.
Jack changes course, and sets out with a new destination in mind. With a little help from people he encounters on his journey, Jack overcomes many obstacles and eventually finds what he so desperately needs.
Jack’s many adventures will draw readers in from the beginning of the story, and readers will want to follow him through until the end. The details of the journey will have great appeal for readers looking for an adventure. Jack’s character is very empathetic and appealing, and the supporting characters throughout the book are also likable. While Jack’s love of elephants seems to be an unimportant fact, it is very important to the story and its conclusion.
Recommended by Maureen Squier, Librarian, New York USA
I love this book! I read Small as an Elephant in three hours and was very upset with myself for not prolonging the pleasure of reading this very beautifully written book.
Jack is camping out on vacation in Acadia National Park with his mother. He wakes up the first morning of vacation and his mother is gone - both her tent and car are missing. All Jack has is his small tent, a sleeping bag, and fourteen dollars.
Because they were going to stay in Acadia for three nights, Jack hangs around hoping his mother would return. When she doesn't, he must make a decision-tell an adult what happened and ask for help or try to get home to Boston on his own. Complicating his decision, is his firm belief that if he asks for help, he will surely be taken away from his mother because she has done this before. And Jack does love his mother despite her episodes of "spinning" out of control.
This is a book that will make you think about many things, especially about love and trust. I won't hesitate to recommend this book to just about anyone - it's a wonderful book.
And as a bonus, it has renewed my interest in and fondness for elephants!
"It is known that one elephant who was rather slow in learning his tricks and had been punished severely by his master's beating, was discovered later that night, alone in his tent, practicing those tricks."
-Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book III
Recommended by: Faith Miller, Librarian USA