Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 28, 2020

Book Giveaway: WHERE’D MY JO GO? by Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has a new picture book, WHERE’D MY JO GO?, illustrated by Scott Brundage and published by Sleeping Bear Press. Sleeping Bear Press has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Jill and Scott, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


When trucker Jo hits the open road, her faithful little doggy pal, Big Al, is always with her. The two make a fine traveling team until Big Al gets distracted after a potty break at a rest stop and wanders off. In her rush to get back on the road, Jo doesn’t realize her best buddy isn’t in the truck cab. As soon as Big Al figures out what has happened, he is determined that nothing will distract him from his plan to wait for Jo to come back. Well, almost nothing. When you’re a dog, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar and tempting sights and smells, and even new humans. Told in both Jo’s and Big Al’s voices, this heartwarming story of separation and joyful reunion is based on a true event.


A few years ago, this secondary headline in a local newspaper drew me like a magnet—

Loyal pup:  Yorkie waits for master at Hannibal rest stop

The article told of a long-haul trucker whose faithful little friend slipped from the truck cab when the trucker stepped out to stretch his legs and take a restroom break. But the driver didn’t see the dog’s escape, and when he climbed back into his cab to resume his journey, he assumed his buddy was asleep in the back.

He was not.

It was evening (a Friday) when the driver realized what had happened. But he was hours away and couldn’t turn around or he’d lose his job. He tried contacting authorities near the rest stop, who said they’d check it out…but he didn’t hear anything back. He called again Sunday morning—frantic, by now—and was told that wires had apparently been crossed—oops—and that he should have called the county’s animal control people.

The animal control people found the little dog, still at the rest stop, just sitting there, faithfully waiting for his trucker buddy.

I had to write about it. Had to. Except I wanted to come at it from the little dog’s point of view. I had to know what he was up to all that time, worried and wondering if his buddy would return for him. I also shortened the timeline to one day, which felt more manageable (and more … well, believable).

My then-agent sent it out. One editor had too many dog books in the pipeline. One didn’t like rhyming stories. One took it to an acquisitions meeting…unsuccessfully. Two liked it but wanted me to make the POV character the little dog’s child owner…perhaps the child could be vacationing with his/her trucker dad, and then kiddos would have someone in the story with whom to identify? One editor wanted me to change the setting to a busy truck stop in order to feature more trucks in the illustrations.

I did give two of those ideas half-hearted attempts. But I didn’t like the results. Neither did the editors. For awhile, I was between agents, so the story didn’t go out at all.

My current agent sent it out, and—it sold. And the version Barb McNally at Sleeping Bear Press accepted was my original manuscript. Finally, somebody GOT it. The story didn’t need additional kids (there are kids throughout at the rest stop and one who is very important near the end) because the little dog serves as the story’s stand-in “child” with whom kids will identify. The story didn’t need a different setting; it needed that desolate rest stop (still lots of trucks to see, believe me!). And keeping an adult as the dog’s loving owner shows kids that yes, adults are every bit as emotionally connected to their pets as kids are.

And then Scott Brundage was brought on to do the illustrations, and my delight magnified. His touch made this book. The way he uses light is incredible. And Big Al, our main character (based on a real dog Scott knows named Smoochie!), has such expressive eyes that you can’t help but feel every bit of his curiosity and angst, as well as his elation when reunited with his Jo.

I couldn’t be happier to have WHERE’D MY JO GO? out in the world. Hope you’ll give it a look!


Jill Esbaum is the award-winning author of several books for young readers. Some of her titles for National Geographic include Little Kids First Big Book of How, Cherry Blossoms Say Spring, and the Angry Birds Playground titles Dinosaurs, Rain Forest, and Animals.

Jill Esbaum grew up in small-town Iowa. Her summers were spent creating comic strips, getting kittens to follow her home, and playing Barbie beauty pageant with the neighbor girls (which her Barbie never won, since she had the unfortunate habit of tripping and falling during the swimsuit competition or trying to pull off a talent for which she was clearly unprepared). One of her favorite possessions was the mini flashlight that illuminated post-bedtime, undercover reading marathons with Nancy Drew.

She is a frequent school visitor and conference speaker. She teaches writing for children at the Whispering Woods Picture Book Writing Retreat and workshops around the country. She lives with her husband on a farm near Davenport, Iowa. Follow her on Twitter @JEsbaum or her blog,


Scott was born and raised in Danbury, Connecticut. He began working professionally while studying at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA after winning a children’s helmet design contest. His helmet design was later created and sold by Bell Helmets, protecting and decorating young heads nationwide.

His work has been recognized by The Society of Illustrators 57,  American Illustration 29, Spectrum 19, 20, 22, 23, 24 and won a Silver award in Spectrum Fantastic Art 18 and Bronze award in Illustration West 55. His paintings have been seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Tor Books, AARP, The Washington Post and many others.

Scott enjoys creating entertaining watercolor images and running in very short shorts in urban environments that tend to be somewhat unready for such sights.

Jill thank you for sharing your journey with us. I love this book and the little dog, Jo. I don’t even have a dog, but I can feel the love and the tension of losing your dog and friend on every page. And of course the last illustration of the happily ever after reunion was so breaktaking it made me shiver. Scott did a fabulous job illustrating your book. I know the whole family will love this book. Good luck!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This book is full of suspense and heart -a winning combination and luckily, a happy ending! Congrats!


  2. I can never read enough dog stories & look forward to reading your latest. Thanks for sharing the backstory. So happy your persistence prevailed!


  3. Congrats, Jill and Scott! (I’m an email subscriber as well.)


  4. Just from seeing this little bit of this book, I can’t wait to read it! My son is a diesel mechanic and often talks about his drivers and their pets. Very important! Congratulations, Jill!

    I will tweet this and I follow you by email, Kathy.


  5. Congrats–this is my kinda of book and I can’t wait to read it (even to my two rescue dogs)! Just yesterday I read a story about a trucker who was finally reunited with his missing kitty after months…a real heart tugger:-)


  6. Another wonderful book! Congratulations, Jill. I look forward to reading it.


  7. I love this! Thanks for sharing the journey. It reminds us that we need to persevere and trust ourselves to show the true meaning of the story. I’m an email subscriber.


  8. Such a heartwarming story of loss and reunion! Thanks, Jill, for sharing the book’s journey. So glad you stuck to your guns on the suggested changes…it’s perfect as is!

    Kathy, I shared on twitter and get your blog, daily.


  9. I can’t wait to read this book! Congratulations, Jill! I shared on Twitter!


  10. What a sweet story! The illustrations are wonderful, too. My 3 1/2 year old granddaughter Joanna would love this book, especially since her nickname is JoJo!


  11. Love that the original is the one that sold! Looking forward to reading your new book, Jill. Congratulations!


  12. This is so my kind of story, and i really loved hearing your journey with it. That’s exactly how I’m feeling these days, with stories I’ve written, that I really love. I really don’t care if agents don’t like inanimate objects, I do! Can’t wait to read your book!


  13. Aww! Lovely story and WOW stunning watercolors! I can’t wait to read it. ❤


  14. Dog stories are the best. I already want to be friends with Big Al and Jo. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!
    I’ve tweeted a link to this post:, and pinned an image on Pinterest with a link as well:
    I also follow your blog daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, stay safe everyone!


  15. I’ve read this story and there’s so many great things about. I like how you stayed with your original story. I think the concept is different and it work so well. Congratulations!


  16. How fun! Thanks for sharing!


  17. The structure of your book sounds so similar to one of my picture book manuscripts (told in two voices and in verse). I’m eager to see how you pulled it off! I’m glad you found an editor who shared your vision for the story. (Kathy, I subscribe to your blog.)


  18. I’m already crying and I haven’t even read the book yet! What a wonderful story on the inspiration for the book. I am subscribed to your blog, Kathy! 🙂


  19. I’m tearing up just from the synopsis and illustrations!


  20. What a lovely book — thanks for sharing this story!


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