“Where’d My Jo Go?” by Jill Esbaum, pictures by Scott Brundage

c.2020, Sleeping Bear Press $16.99 / $21.99 Canada 32 pages

Remember the time you couldn’t find your Mom?

Maybe you’d just rather forget when that happened because it was probably really scary. First she was there – then she wasn’t, and what did you do? If you looked for a helper or cried, that’s totally normal. If you were inside the new book “Where’d My Jo Go?” by Jill Esbaum, pictures by Scott Brundage, you might’ve just waited.

Everyone up and down the road knew that if Jo was behind the wheel of her big rig, Big Al was on the seat next to her. When she stopped at a truck stop, Al stopped, too, and took a “potty break” that sometimes wasn’t long enough.

Or sometimes, he just liked to look around.

At the truck stop, there might be other dogs. There might be a French fry that someone dropped, or some kids playing nearby, or a baby to sniff, or something to chase. Or – uh oh, something might be lost. Like, their truck…

And Jo.

Where’d she go?

Big Al figured she probably didn’t go far. She needed him as much as he needed her! He guarded the truck and asked for pets and treats and snacks and maybe he should just wait. Jo would be back. Big Al was sure of it.

But all afternoon, trucks went this way and that way, and Jo wasn’t in any of them. A little girl tried to catch Big Al, but she wasn’t Jo. A big rig like theirs came through the truckstop once, but Jo wasn’t behind the wheel. It got dark. It got scary. Jo didn’t come back but a bigger boy came over to see if Big Al was okay.

Jo was returning to get him, right? She’d be there soon, wouldn’t she? What if she was miles and miles down the road? Would she really come all this way back to get Big Al? Ohhhh, but the boy was really nice and Big Al couldn’t resist getting a big hug from the kid and oh, look, there was a truck, and…

And isn’t your child going to really hope for a happy ending? Not to be a spoiler, but you’ll get that inside “Where’d My Jo Go?”

Before the ending, though, and before the must-read afterword, author Jill Esbaum tells a story that youngsters might know all too well: one of being lost, or separated from parent or caregiver. Normally, that’s a frightening tale for any kid, but the way it’s told here is perfect: this story is evenly balanced – no trivialization, no over-dramatization, and no out-of-hand scariness – while dog-as-character makes the subject safe to explore and discuss. It also helps that illustrations by Scott Brundage lighten the tone where needed.

While it may offer false hope for kids who are missing a pet (and probably isn’t for them), “Where’d My Jo Go?” is great for little fans of big rigs, and 4-to-8-year-olds who have a hard time with separation. If that’s your child, then here’s the story to find.