Thursday, April 28, 2011

X-quisit Literary Review: Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

OK, I cheated but you don't want to miss this great book!
About The Book: 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. (Jacobson's Website)

First Line: "Elephants can sense danger."

One Great Line:"At this moment, Jack was certain that the center of the core [earth] was an ice cube and that it was sending frozen daggers to its surface." (56)

What Kids Are Saying:  "I loved how the story jumped right into the plot, and slowly fleshes out the characters. It ends in a way that seems right."  Ned Kelly, age 13 (More here.)

What Others Are Saying: "Jacobson masterfully puts readers into Jack’s mind—he 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."  Kirkus

"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, Horn Book

What I Thought:
This was an exquisite exploration of a young boys struggle to make sense of his world. His world is often strange and cold. The desire to protect his mother and his need to be protected are juxtaposed against the beautiful Maine coast. I love how the small thoughts about elephants at the beginning of each chapter gives subtle subtext messages about the world and our place in it. This will be one of the books that I will remember as not only skillfully written but filled with sensitivity and artful elegance. Especially, for a book for middle grade readers. I really felt like I was right there in Jacks head.

Honors or Awards:
"Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers."

About The Author:   Jennifer Richards Jacobson
Jacobson's  Website
Jacobson's Blog

Jacobson received a masters in education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. See more here and here.

Why Do You Write For Middle Grade? 
“Middle readers are a wonderful audience for me, because everything seems to be unfolding for them. They are at an age when they are venturing beyond the familiar landscape of their childhood, and considering all the possibilities ahead."  

 "I believe in Jack and his ability to understand his mother in shades of gray. I believe in his ability to be fiercely independent: to try and try and try . . . and at the same time to recognize that he needs others. That others are right there, waiting to catch him."

On Becoming A Writer
"No writing is ever wasted. Freelance jobs taught me the craft and cadence of a writing life. I learned that most important thing about writing is this: you must sit down and write. But it was one particular job I credit for giving me the understanding I needed to finally sell a children’s book." 

Marketing Strategies:
Jacobson has an impressive list of seminars and in-service programs she conducts in schools where she shares her knowledge of the writing process.
She also does school visits and loves to meet young writers. Her blog encourages young writers to submit their writing. 

Check out her awesome blog on growing writers.  There you can sign up to receive her mini-lesson newsletter for primary grade teachers. I just received my first one and it was chuck-ful of great tips, important writing guidance and inspiration! She is amazing.

 Other Books: Among her books for younger readers are the Andy Shane early chapter books, illustrated by Abby Carter, and the Young Adult novels Stained and The Complete History of Why I Hate Her, which was chosen by the American Library Association as one of its 2011 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.


  1. I like the cheat and I think it works :) Great reviews as usual.

  2. I almost went with a cheat too! X is simply hard! LOL Enjoyed your review- I'll be exploring your blog!


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