RESCUE AND JESSICA: A Picture-Book Story of Love and Courage

Lynn: Married only a year, runners Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes were badly injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Both lost limbs and, in the dark days that followed, Jessica endured many surgeries as doctors fought to save her remaining foot and leg. Then a black lab service dog, Rescue, came into their lives. Rescue’s assistance and, more importantly, his companionship helped push the darkness away.

Drawing on that experience, Jessica and Patrick’s Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship (2018) chronicles the inspiring, life-changing power of a service dog. The picture book follows two characters, a young girl named Jessica whose legs were badly hurt and a young dog named Rescue who is learning to be a service dog. As Jessica struggles to learn how to get around on her prosthetic leg and use a wheelchair, Rescue learns the many ways he can help his human partner. When they meet, each thinks the other amazing. When Jessica loses her struggle to keep her leg, Rescue is there to comfort her. Together, they start all over again.

Rescue & Jessica: a Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes

The text is clear, straightforward, and wonderfully tailored to young readers. The story focuses on Jessica’s rehabilitation, Rescue’s training, and how the two work together to meet the challenges Jessica faces. Readers will glean an understanding of the issues faced by those with mobility issues and the invaluable contributions a service dog can provide them. I challenge anyone to read the last line without tearing up: “The truth was, they had rescued each other.”

Scott Magoon’s digital illustrations beautifully convey moods using a dark palette and background for Jessica’s hospital room and the warm glow of an evening sky as Jessica and Rescue happily cross a bridge at the end of the story. A lot of information is skillfully provided by the inclusion of many small details in each illustration. I love the inclusion of the duck and duckling on Boston Common.

I was fortunate to get to meet authors Jessica and Patrick—and Rescue, too—at ALA Midwinter, and hear them tell their story and the story of this book. Their courage is inspiring.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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