SMALL AS AN ELEPHANT by Jennifer Richard Jacobson c.2011, Brilliance Audio $22.99 / $28.99 Canada
There are days when slamming your bedroom door, though it might get you in trouble, is really satisfying. Those are the days when everybody bugs you, nothing goes right, and you just want to scream, stomp, storm and slam.
Sometimes, you just want to be left alone.
But what if everybody left you — for good? What if you woke up and found out that you were all by yourself? It happened to Jack Martel in the new audiobook “Small as an Elephant” by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.
It was supposed to be the vacation of a lifetime.
Eleven-year-old Jack Martel and his mother had planned it all summer. They were going camping in Maine’s Acadia National Park for Labor Day Weekend. Then they were going to go see Lydia the Elephant at the York Zoo because a love of elephants was the one solid thing Jack and his mother shared.
That is, when she wasn’t spinning out of control.
Still, she seemed normal on the trip, helping him set up his tent and laughing at his jokes. She was fine and Jack was looking forward to a few days of fun. But the first morning he woke up and unzipped his tent, he was alone.
His mother had done it before. She’d left him by himself in their neighborhood near Boston but she’d always returned in a day or two, once the spinning had stopped. So Jack settled in with a comic book and waited.
When his mother didn’t return that day or the next or the next, he counted his change — just under $15 — and decided to try and make it home by himself. Surely, that’s where she would be.
But going anywhere is expensive and Jack was hungry and afraid. What would happen if he couldn’t find his mother? Would they call his grandmother, whom Jack’s mom said was mean? What would they do to a boy who stole a plastic elephant to remind himself of the vacation of a lifetime?
Jack had to figure that out soon because somebody reported him missing and the authorities were searching for him.
The one thing to remember when choosing an audiobook for a car trip is this: Everyone has to listen to it.
But with “Small as an Elephant” nobody will mind. This is one of the smartest, most imagination-capturing, compelling stories this year — for adults and for kids.
Author Jennifer Richard Jacobson thinks of things for Jack to do that most adults would never consider. This little character is tough and scrappy, resourceful and clever, but listeners are never allowed to lose sight of the fact that he is an 11-year-old. I was breathless at the audacity of this brave little guy, and the ending is a complete stunner.
Bring a tissue, that’s all I’m going to say.
Be aware that, because of its content, “Small as an Elephant” may be scary for children under 10, but older kids and adults will love it. If you’re looking for an excellent vacation audiobook, this one is a slam-dunk.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old, and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.