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Small as an Elephant

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  7,121 ratings  ·  1,027 reviews
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 n
Hardcover, 275 pages
Published March 8th 2011 by Candlewick Press (first published March 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,121 ratings  ·  1,027 reviews

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Jun 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wow! What a beautiful little story. I only read a few children's/YA books each year, and I am so glad that this was one of them.

"Small as an Elephant" is about an 11-year-old boy named Jack who goes camping with his mom in Maine, but when he wakes up in the morning, his mother is gone. She took her tent and the rental car and left Jack all alone at the campsite. A scary beginning, to be sure, but Jack is a very capable boy.

Jack sets out to try and find his mom, and it becomes quite the adventur
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: kids-fiction
At chapter 7, I put this book down because I was so angry I didn't want to keep reading. After being away from it for a week and letting my irritation die down, I picked it back up and finished. It did keep me interested until the end, but I still have a problem with it. I found Jack to be portrayed realistically, or at least, how I believe a boy in that situation might think and behave. He was at times strong-willed and at others, broken and helpless like a small child. He was frightened, he wa ...more
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Eleven year old Jack wakes up and realizes his mother is gone. They are on a camping vacation in Maine, far from Jamaica Plain Boston. Jack assumes his mom will return soon so he just makes do and keeps the fact that he is alone hidden. When his mom starts "spinning" she sometimes goes off, but she always returns. After several days he realizes that she is not coming back and he decides to try and make his way back to Massachusetts. He is alone, broke and scared. Soon everyone is looking for the ...more
Aug 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: 10-14 year olds
Recommended to Beverly by: indie next list/
Small As An Elephant could be a quick, sweet read, but it is so emotionally gut-wrenching, adult and older YA readers will find themselves slowing down to contemplate Jack's trauma and choices. Eleven year old Jack has been abondoned at a state park by his mentally ill mother. Younger readers will most likely focus on Jack's love for his mother, his desire to find her, and his adventures as he tries to get home. Older readers will share Jack's anger at his mother and see themselves in the adults ...more
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
As I've read some of the reviews of this book on Goodreads, I've pondered on the various comments. Some people loved it, some people didn't. Some thought it was believable and some did not. I guess it just goes to show that few if any books are universally loved.

This is the story of Jack, and eleven-year-old from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, who finds himself alone at a campground in Maine. His mother suffers from mental illness and has abandoned him. Jack knows that if he tells anyone about th
Lisa Nocita
Jun 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary and heartbreaking! Eleven year old Jack wakes up on the second day of a camping vacation to discover that his mom has packed up her own tent and the camping supplies and left him. Jack sadly seems well-accustomed to these disappearances and is more than capable of fending for himself. At first, he is not very worried but as the day stretches into nighttime and then into the second day, he realizes that he won't be able to hide the truth from nearby campers and the park rangers. Plu ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dcf-2012-2013
I loved this book. Jack is abandoned by his mother who is bipolar while on a camping trip in Maine. He is determined to travel home without exposing that he is alone, a mere child of 11 left to fend for himself. He fears going to the authorities will mean his mother will be sent to jail. This book has a lot of action and lots of voice. The ending is precious.
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: j-realistic
A difficult read. Jack wakes up the first morning of his camping trip and his mom is missing. But Jack knows he can't tell anyone or he risks loosing his mom forever. So he sets out on his own to find her, looking all over the Maine island, and running into all kinds of trouble tracing his mom. While Jack initially sets off to find his mom, he ends up on the run, knowing while he probably isn't going to find her, he can't be found by anyone else or they'll never have a chance to be a family agai ...more
Clea Danaan
Aug 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A hero's journey for eleven-year-old boys. Beautifully and honestly deals with the challenges a child faces when dealing with a parent's mental illness. I could picture myself in Jack's shoes as he traveled, really empathizing with him. Jacobsen does an amazing job of pulling us along with him, both hoping he will be found and hoping he will somehow not, and not knowing what will happen in the end.
Dec 21, 2013 rated it liked it
This book caught my attention at the very start and was a quick read. I liked it, made me think about many issues that kids/parents with mental illness deal with. I had many emotions while reading it, even made me cry.
May 11, 2013 rated it liked it
It's a good book, touching. I teared up on the end. I would recommend it for older kids though, 10 to 12 years old.
Elephants are always wonderful.
Chris L
one of the best books i have read
Kaitlyn Baker
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful book that had me on edge. This modern survival story of Jack's journey is both heartbreaking and thrilling. Thought provoking read!
Sarah Hadd
Dec 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I think any middle grade kid would absolutely love this book. The idea of a kid running away on their own and having to survive is fascinating to kids this age. Meanwhile it’s also a fantastic story, touching on mental illness and internal emotional strength.
Noah Carpenter
Mar 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a good book. it all starts when jacks mom left him one day. Jack searched for days for his mom but also tried to hide from the cops. I think you should read this book to find out weather jack finds his mom or he ends up getting caught by the cops.
Richie Partington
Nov 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
30 March 2011 SMALL AS AN ELEPHANT by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, Candlewick, March 2011, 275p., ISBN: 978-0-7363-4155-9

"Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass"
-- Eleanor Farjeon, "Morning Has Broken"

"He remembered the first time his mother had taken him to see an elephant. He had been really little, no older than four. They'd been at a circus, and he'd hated it -- hated the chaotic music, the sudden snaps of the ringmaster's whip, the diamond-ey
Sally Kruger
Despite having an argument with his mother about going to York to see Lydia the elephant, eleven year old Jack Martel is excited about their brief vacation to Maine. They arrive at the campground and pitch their tents late in the evening. In the morning Jack emerges from his small tent to discover his mother's tent is gone and so is their car.

She probably went to get supplies and will return in a short while so Jack tries to stay busy around camp. As time ticks away, he begins to suspect the wor
Elizabeth K.
Nov 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-new-reads
This is a little better than three stars, but certainly not four.

Jack, an 11 year old boy, finds himself unexpectedly alone while on a vacation to Maine, and then has to figure out what he is going to do to reunite himself with his mother.

One of my favorite things about this book was mentioned in the author's note - she went to Maine and visited all the places the character would have gone, and I felt like this really came through in the book. The geography of the story was completely real and b
Cathy Blackler
Jul 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Upon beginning this book I was reminded of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon-a child, after an argument with a parent, is alone in the woods of Maine. The resourcefulness of the main characters is similar as well, but that is where the similarities end. I was then reminded of Oliver Twist-a young boy, fueled by the love of a mother who is out of reach and helped by the kindness of strangers, finds his way home. I loved the elephant facts and references at the start of each chapter. I also thought qu ...more
Feb 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: kids, middle-grade
Jack's mother abandons him while camping in Maine. Because she has a history of psychiatric problems, and because this is not the first time she disappears, Jack avoids reporting anything to authorities in fear of being turned over to the department of social services. Left to his own devices, and with no means, Jack finds resourceful ways to stay alive and to make his way home. A sweet survivalist read for boys.

There was something odd to me about the voice and narration in this book. It doesn't
Cat Fithian
Mar 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
I had a VERY hard time liking this book at all. 11-yr-old Jack is abandoned at a public campsite by his mother, who is mentally ill. Jack then fends for himself, on the run, on an epic journey. First he's trying to find his mother and then he's trying to get to a zoo to see an elephant (he loves elephants). The voice of Jack was at times too young and at times too self-assured. The premise was so disturbing to me that I had trouble reading it all, but had to skim through the book to find out wha ...more
Dichotomy Girl
I don't usually read middle grade books, (though that will most likely change as my daughter gets older), but the premise of this book intrigued me. It's the story of Jack, and how his bi-polar Mother leaves him while camping on an island in Maine. Jack, doesn't want to be taken away from his Mother, so he decides to make his way back to Boston where he is sure she will come back to him.

The story is peppered with facts about Elephants, which I (with my general elephant ignorance) found fascinati
My thirteen year old son was drawn to this story. After he was done reading it, I picked it up. When he saw me reading it he told me he would chat about it with me when I Finished reading it. At first I found the story to be unbelievable because I could not imagine a mother being so mentally ill that she would leave her son all alone in a campground while they were on vacation. As the story continued I found myself rooting for Jack to make it back home. The author made the story very true-to-lif ...more
Daughter and I picked this as our mother-daughter book club selection. 12 year old read it in 24 hours, had to find out what happened. I took my time and enjoyed Jack's journey. I loved the rich descriptions of Maine and Massachusetts and Jack's ingenuity. The elephants facts were a nice bonus.

Looking forward to our discussion in a few weeks with out book club.
Jessica Molina
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Have you ever got lost in a big store and you didn't know where your mom was? Well it's kind of similar to a boy named Jack but a little bit more serious. The genre of this book is realistic fiction because this could happen to anyone. I think people should read this book "Small as an Elephant", if they are into a good realistic fiction type of thing.

The setting of the book is important because it's in Maine where there is a campground. A boy named Jack Martel. Jack is left behind by his mot
Jennifer H
Jun 17, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh man, I did not like this book. It started off fine, and it was interesting. His mom abandons him, but it isn't unusual, so he attempts to find her. That part of the story was interesting. The poor kid was wavering in-between coming to that realization that his mom was gone-gone and having an adventure. Even when he decided to go home, that was an adventure. It was funny, but really everything mostly went his way - he got food, he escaped, he got locked into an L.L. Bean without a security sys ...more
Deb Tyo
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson was the perfect book to break the Summer Reading Slump I have been in the past couple weeks. After reading some great books, I've been on the hunt for something different, something that would break the Summer Doldrums of Reading. I certainly found it in this gentle giant of a 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
Alyssa N.
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 31, 2012 rated it liked it
When eleven year old Jack Martel steps out of his pup tent on a campsite in Maine he quickly realizes his mother is no longer on the site with him. Jack doesn't immediately begin to panic--after all when his mother goes through her "spinning" phases she isn't quite herself and she always comes back and apologizes. This time though Jack isn't in his apartment back in Massachusetts--he is two states away with no money, no supplies, and no food. Jack wishes they had never had that fight over going ...more
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tween-and-teen
When Jack and his mother travel to Maine to go camping over Labor Day weekend, Jack is happy and only a little grumpy about the argument he had with his mom about the sites they should see between Maine and their home in Massachusetts. When Jack wakes up after his first night in the National Forest, things are a bit different. Jack's mother has abandoned him. She's taken the car and her tent and simply vanished. At first Jack isn't too worried. Maybe she went to get food, maybe she moved to a be ...more
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Jennifer Richard Jacobson has written many books for young readers, including stories about Andy Shane. She lives in Yarmouth, Maine.

News & Interviews

In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
37 likes · 24 comments
“Elephants love reunions. They recognize one another after years and years of separation and greet each other with wild, boisterous joy. There's bellowing and trumpeting, ear flapping and rubbing. Trunks entwine.” 37 likes
“Elephants can sense danger. They're able to detect an approaching tsunami or earthquake before it hits. Unfortunately, Jack did not have this talent. The day his life was turned completely upside down, he was caught unaware.” 10 likes
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