Most helpful critical review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Hard to suspend disbelief
on December 8, 2009
Jacob's parents are divorced and he hasn't seen his dad for a couple of years, since his mom remarried. His dad writes often, though, from his research camp in Kenya where he studies elephant behavior. Jacob's life was pretty predictable until the day his mom was hit by a car. She died that night. Jacob's stepdad was offered a job in Honduras, and he doesn't want to be responsible for Jacob, so he plans to send him away -- not to his dad, but to relatives Jacob barely knows.
Jacob's opportunity to change his living arrangements comes the next day when his stepdad leaves for a business meeting out of town. Jacob already has a passport. He withdraws all his money from his bank (will a bank allow a kid to withdraw hundreds of dollars?) and pawns his mother's diamond rings. (Will a pawnshop transact business with a minor?) With the money, he buys a plane ticket to Nairobi that leaves in two days. (Will a travel agent sell a ticket to a third world country to an unaccompanied minor?) Then Jacob goes to the Kenyan Embassy and convinces them to give him a visa immediately. (Hmmm. This one is the hardest to believe. Visas take time and political pull. No one can walk in to the embassy and walk out with a visa. You have to apply, and then wait, sometimes as much as 6 months.) Since he will be biking across Kenya, Jacob packs his camping gear, and has the airline load his bike with the luggage.
Jacob was in Nairobi less than a day when his bike was stolen and he was beaten up. From this point on, the story is an exciting "My Side of the Mountain" adventure, with interesting face-to-face meetings with wild animals and even ivory poachers. There is drought and danger at every turn as Jacob pushes into the wild, parched country to find his father.
I understand that the author had to figure out a way to get the boy into Africa unaccompanied, but it was difficult for me to believe that it could have happened this way. On the other hand, children are less informed about the ins and outs of international travel, and will probably go right along with the possibilities here.
Boys in 4th to 8th grade who like danger and adventure will love this book.