The Reading Pros met today (outside!) to discuss Jennifer Jacobson’s Small as an Elephant. This book is a good choice for any kid, but especially kids from Maine because the main character, Jack, travels to many places along the coast in his journey, including Bar Harbor and Ellsworth.
We discussed the book and talked about what I think of as the “Jean Valjean question”: is it ok to steal food if you’re starving? Jack resorts to stealing a couple of times in the book, so this was an interesting question to debate. Some of the kids were completely opposed to stealing, under any circumstances while others thought it was ok as long it was the only option. Other kids had creative solutions to Jack’s hunger problem: he could live off the land by eating blueberries, or he could have asked for the food instead of taking it.
Jack’s favorite animal in the book is the elephant and there’s a lot of interesting information about them. Elephants and humans have quite a bit in common. Elephants mourn the death of their loved ones, for example. Some elephants can even paint, which is where the next part of our meeting came in. The kids used paint brushes attached to sticks to replicate using a trunk and painted in an elephant outline. I got the idea from this great blog: Adventures of an Art Teacher. Thanks for the idea!
The finished elephant (drawn by Emma 🙂 ) turned out great. I will get a picture and post it soon. Happy Friday, everyone!
*CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS*
Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
11-year-old Jack wakes up in Acadia National Park ready to start a long weekend in Maine with his mom. When he looks outside and realizes that she is no where to be found, his plans for the next three days completely change. Jack is terrified and worried, but somehow he pulls it together and starts to look for his mom.
The story follows Jack’s resourceful journey as he tries to avoid the authorities and find his mom. Despite his situation, Jack is still committed to his original goal when he came to Maine. He wants to see Lydia, an elephant living in captivity in the southern part of the state.
This story reminds me of Lost on a mountain in Maine, a great adventure story that I heard as a read-a-loud as a kid. The reader will sympathize with Jack’s situation and will keep reading to find out what happens to him. I think all kids (and most adults) love these kind of stories because we like to think about what we would do if we were lost or abandoned and had get home without much outside help. As I worried for Jack and cheered him on when he made progress on his journey, in the back of my mind I was thinking “hmm, what would I do?”
The author has included an obscure fact about elephants at the beginning of each chapter. Jack has a toy elephant that he carries with him during his trip and thinking about his favorite animal calms him when he’s feeling stressed. I liked this element of the story because it shows us an important part of Jack’s life before this trip to Maine.
This book would be excellent for a book discussion or read a loud. In addition to the fast-paced story, the book also raises issues of morality that could be talked about in a group. For example, when Jack sets off to find his mother, he has next to nothing with him. He doesn’t have any money to buy food, but he is getting hungrier and hungrier as the day wears on. Is it okay to steal food if you are very hungry and have no way to pay for it?
I enjoyed reading about all of the places that Jack visited, mostly because I’ve been to them myself. The book’s detailed descriptions of local towns and landmarks make this a great read for any Mainer or anyone who has visited our beautiful state.
Recommendation: 5 out of 5 lupines