I thought this was a well-written story, but I have struggled to review it. I liked the writing style and I think young readers will enjoy all the excitement. Jack is a logical protagonist who tries his best to help himself in difficult situations.
The premise of the story is that Jack's mom is bipolar, and she leaves him alone at their campsite a few states away from their home. Jack is 11. He knows that if the authorities find out what she has done, that there will be dire consequences. He is fiercely loyal to his mom and understands that she is not herself when she is "spinning." I think that Jack is a perceptive boy, and that his choices are age appropriate. He is well-developed and interesting.
My struggle with the story is that he is ABANDONED, LEFT ALL ALONE! As a mother this is terrifying to read and I just want him to trust the level-headed adults that he meets on his quest to find his mom and return home. Also, I am concerned about young readers reading this and thinking that they too could survive in such circumstances. Jack doesn't have it easy, but let's face it, in real life HORRIFIC things could have happened to him.
The title is clever and Jack has a poignant memory of touching an elephant at the circus as a young boy. I liked how elephants brought him comfort and the powerful moment of enlightenment involving an elephant at the end. The chapters begin with elephant quotes or facts, which string the story together well.
I gave it to my 13-year-old to read and he really liked it. He read it in one night and we had some good discussion about it.