The Children’s Book Review | June 19, 2016
Written and Illustrated by Rebecca Elliott
Age Range: 4-8
Hardback: 32 pages
Publisher: Lion Children’s Books (2015)
What to expect: Cats, Friendship, Family, Pets, Loss
Introducing the concept of death to children is obviously difficult. Rebecca Elliott (The Owl Diaries) approaches this potential minefield-of-a-subject with a novel combination of tenderness and candor in Missing Jack.
In this fourth book of Elliott’s Toby and Clemmie series (a series loosely based on Elliot’s own family), we meet Jack, the family pet. Toby loves his cat, Jack. Jack is the perfect pet for Toby and his family because he manages to be not only calm and gentle but also fun and adventurous. Toby notices that Jack becomes more “like an old furry Grandpa” as he ages. When Jack dies, Toby and his family have a memorial service for their beloved pet. Toby’s parents encourage him to bring home a new cat. Though reluctant at first, Toby goes to the animal shelter, where he meets a feisty cat named Humphrey. Even though Humphrey is different from Jack, he still fits well in Toby’s family and becomes their new pet.
Elliott is so refreshingly direct in her presentation of Jack’s aging and passing: “It was almost like he was fading away. Then Jack died. And I miss him.” Her description of the cat’s memorial service strikes the perfect balance between somber and sweet. Missing Jack gives children permission to mourn a loss and to find new sources of joy while always carrying a piece of the past in their hearts. (Parents, be prepared to tear up – or cry with abandon, as I did – at the last page.)
Elliot’s illustrations offer great color and just enough detail without distracting from the book’s message. Her art beautifully captures Toby’s range of emotions. Much appreciated is the presence of Toby’s sister, Clemmie, who (if you are not familiar with the Toby and Clemmie series) is wheelchair-bound; the depiction of this special-needs girl gives children an early lesson that not all families look the same.
Missing Jack is an absolute must-read. Elliott respects the intelligence of children by presenting death in a straightforward manner. That she is able to do so with such beauty speaks to her impressive talents as an author-illustrator. Read this book with your child (and your pet).
Add this book to your collection: Missing Jack
About Rebecca Elliott
Rebecca Elliott has illustrated several children’s books, including Jungle Tumble, Monkey Tumbles, My Nativity Jigsaw Book, and My Noah’s Ark Jigsaw Book. She is the author and illustrator of Just Because, Mr Super Poopy Pants, Sometimes, and Zoo Girl, for which she was nominated for the 2012 Kate Greenaway Medal.
“Missing Jack,” written and illustrated by Rebecca Elliot, was reviewed by Kelley Smith. Discover more books like “Missing Jack” by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Cats, Family, Friendship, Loss of a Pet, and Pets.