A Bell for Jimmy by Theo Wadsworth is a short story in verse that tells a moving tale of a dog’s heroism to save a community. Lovely, starkly surreal black and white illustrations by Julia Naurzalijeva act as companions we travel back in time while an old man tells the tale of the isolated town of Eden. The man explains to a stranger who’s stumbled on the hushed village why they are ringing a memorial bell. Years ago, a terrible winter storm lasted for weeks and almost destroyed the town. A group sent to get help vanished into the storm. Other communities were far away. People had lost hope. But then a small dog became the hero of the town and ever since he’s commemorated in honor.
Original, dramatic, and heartwarming all at once—A Bell for Jimmy is a modern classic. With a lyrical, well-paced poetic style and a small-town scene reminiscent of 19th-century American writers, Theo Wadsworth captures a unique storytelling voice. The book creates a mood and a moment, half-fantasy, half-gritty reality, in a captivating twilight zone that draws the reader in. Part poem and part short story, it’s a survival tale with a bit of nightmare, and it’s amazingly believable, self-contained and individual like Eden itself. But it is also accessible, with an earnest familiarity, a story of courage and memories that touched me by the end. If you like family stories about courageous dogs, this is entirely perfect. And if you like books that make you remember them long after they are closed, A Bell for Jimmy is remarkable.
This is the companion for Sarah Scheele's newsletter blog. In it I share reviews for books I'd recommend/are similar to my own.