Name of Book: Jamaica’s Find
Author: Juanita Havill
Illustrator: Anne Sibley O’Brien
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Audience: Ages 4 and up
Summary: Jamaica is thrilled to find a stuffed dog, “worn from hugging,” under the slide at the park. She takes the dog home but soon begins to feel guilty about her new pet, especially when she overhears her mother explain to the rest of the family, “It probably belongs to a girl just like Jamaica.” Jamaica turns the toy in to the park office the next morning. She then meets a little girl on the playground searching under the slide for a dog she lost the previous day. Jamaica helps reunite the girl with her lost toy.
Literary elements at work in the story: This story is told in the third person and focuses almost entirely on Jamaica. Simple narrative drives the plot and is interspersed with conversations Jamaica has with her family, with the park office employee, and with her new friend Kristin at the end of the book. The richness of Jamaica’s inner struggle of conscience, however, is told entirely through O’Brien’s watercolor illustrations. On one double-page spread, for example, the text tells of Jamaica’s mother reminding her that she needs to come and dry the dishes and of Jamaica’s response that she doesn’t feel good. The illustration shows a very pensive little girl sitting on her bed with her hands under her knees, staring across the room at the bedraggled stuffed dog, sprawled on a chair where Jamaica has flung it. Much is unspoken in this story and can be explored with young readers.
(How) does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Jamaica and her family are African Americans. The park service worker and the little girl whom Jamaica meets at the end of the book are Caucasian. Race is never specifically mentioned in the story, however.
Theological conversation partners: On one of the tablets which Moses lugged down from Mt. Sinai are the words, “You shall not steal.” Jamaica’s Find would be a great complement to any discussion of the eighth commandment, since it clearly shows that God’s laws are not arbitrary but are intended to help us live together in community. If Jamaica takes the dog she finds at the park, someone else will be without a beloved toy. The community suffers. Jamaica herself is shown to be in distress when she has done wrong. Breaking God’s laws results in a rift in one’s humanity as well. Fortunately, Jamaica’s mother is a wise woman. She sees that her daughter is upset, sits down beside Jamaica on the bed, and holds her quietly until Jamaica comes to her own conclusion that she should take the dog back to the park. This story would also work well with any of the “lost” stories from Luke (the lost sheep, Luke 15:3-7; the lost coin, Luke 15: 8-10; and the lost son, Luke 15:11-32). Jamaica and Kristin, the original owner of the stuffed dog, are both overjoyed when Edgar dog is reunited with Kristin, just as God is overjoyed when any of God’s lost children are found again.
Faith Talk Questions:
- Why do you think that Jamaica returned the red hat but not the stuffed dog at the beginning of the story?
- Why do you think that Jamaica didn’t feel so good after supper?
- What would you do if you found something that you really, really liked in the park?
- How does it feel to lose something that you like a lot?
- Think of some reasons that it is not a good idea to take things that are not yours.
- Why do you think that the two girls are smiling on the last page?
- How do you think that God feels when you have done the right thing?
This review was written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Beth Ly Jamaica’s Find on-Suhring.
Jamaica’s Find by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.