Rescue & Jessica
Based on a real-life partnership, the heartening story of the love and teamwork between a girl and her service dog will illuminate and inspire. Its Rescue and Jessica by Jessica Kensky, Patrick Downes and illustrated by Scott Magoon.
You rescued me, Rescue.
Written by Boston Marathon bombing survivors Jessica Kensky & Patrick Downes, Rescue & Jessica is based on their real-life experience with Jessica’s service dog Rescue. Rescue thought he’d grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog—it’s the family business, after all. When he gets the news that he’s better suited to being a service dog, he’s worried that he’s not up to the task. Then he meets Jessica, a girl whose life is turning out differently than the way she'd imagined it, too. Now Jessica needs Rescue by her side to help her accomplish everyday tasks. And it turns out that Rescue can help Jessica see after all: a way forward, together, one step at a time. An endnote from the authors tells more about the training and extraordinary abilities of service dogs, particularly their real-life best friend and black lab, Rescue.
This book is the most personal work I've ever done, closely connecting my own personal experience, my work and my love for the city of Boston. I was running the 2013 Boston Marathon as an unofficial (or "bandit") runner on Boylston Street when the first bomb exploded in front of me. 12 seconds later, the second bomb detonated behind me. It was very close. I felt the concussion wave on my back, my ears rang and then, all around—pandemonium. Panic in my heart—I knew my wife and two boys (ages 8 & 6) had made their way to Boylston street's finish line and were somewhere nearby waiting to watch me pass. I had to find them. Were they ok? As I abandoned the course, the phone I had with me to track my miles rang. It was my wife Christy to say they all were ok. Thank God. I told her I was too and we agreed on a safe meeting place for the four of us. We met several very tense minutes later, shaken but relieved to be reunited. Unlike so many around us—like Patrick and Jessica—we escaped physical injury. But I struggled with post traumatic stress disorder in the aftermath.
In my own homemade effort to heal my psychological wounds, I tried to find some kind of silver lining or some deeper meaning to that day: What could I learn from it? How could I help in a meaningful way using what I had learned? It was to no avail. Meaning seemed out of reach, like another marathon runner I could not outpace. Fortunately, with time, I at least found relative relief from the oppressive PTSD. I had even come to accept that the whole experience would always feel completely senseless. Pointless.
Until last year.
That's when I was asked by my dear friends at Candlewick Press to do this book and I saw the universe wink in the way that it sometimes does. At last, here was a chance to do something constructive and bring my own personal experiences to bear in a way I knew how. With Patrick and Jessica’s text, I would draw a picture book for young readers to show what its like to live with traumatic experience. To help demystify what it means be a person with disabilities, explain what it’s like to live and work with a Service Dog, and show that no matter what happens, there’s always some light at the end of the tunnel, somewhere.
Truly, these experiences have taught me in so many ways—big and small, seen and unseen—I am one lucky person.
Rescue & Jessica is proudly published by Candlewick Press in Somerville, Massachusetts. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Rescue & Jessica will benefit NEADS, National Education for Assistance Dog Services, a non-profit organization that was established in 1976 and based in Princeton, Massachusetts. Their Service Dogs become an extension of their handlers and bring freedom, physical autonomy and relief from social isolation to their human partners who are deaf or have a disability.
★ This riveting story about the relationship between a disabled girl and her black lab service dog is based loosely on Kensky’s own experiences as a double amputee. The author’s note mentions how she and husband Downes were injured in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, but readers don’t need to know this to be caught up in the story. The book follows two struggles: that of Rescue, a lab in training as a service dog, and of Jessica, a girl hospitalized by an injury, who must learn to cope with prosthetics, a wheelchair, and a whole new world of challenges. . . The digital illustrations wonderfully underscore Jessica’s journey from darkness (the overview of her hospital bed shows her family surrounded by blackness, for example) to light—the pages are filled with gold, green, and movement once Jessica and Rescue start working together. An inspiring tale of compassion and perseverance. — Booklist Connie Fletcher, starred review
K-Gr 3 –The author’s true story of her friendship with her service dog. Rescue, a young pup is training to become a service dog, learning to fetch things, to open doors, and even to turn on lights. Jessica is recovering from an injury to both of her legs and is getting acclimated to using prosthetics and walking again. Each is worried about their skills and their futures, but when they are eventually paired, it is an instant connection and realization that they can do so much together. The power of their relationship is made quite clear throughout the book. Kensky, and her coauthor and husband Downes, were both injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and have chosen to leave that particular detail out of the primary narrative. Instead, they focus on the work that Rescue does to aid Jessica every day and the intensity of their relationship. Magoon’s digital illustrations are a lovely accompaniment to the text, providing rich detail to the spare story, and the scenes of Jessica and Rescue playing and working with the Boston skyline as a backdrop only add to the poignancy. VERDICT This is a strong selection for any collection, and stories about working dogs never get old; this will be appreciated and enjoyed by a wide variety of young people.—Publishers Weekly Jody Kopple, Shady Hill School, Cambridge, MA
Soft digital illustrations depict their respective challenges. The authors don’t dwell on Jessica’s frustration; Rescue’s buoyant effect on her well-being makes pity impossible. Magoon uses dark backgrounds to symbolize Jessica’s sadness and fear, but scenes with Rescue are open and bright; with Rescue nearby, even the night after her second amputation is lightened (via lamplight and stars). A gentle introduction to service dogs and acquired disability. —Kirkus Reviews, anonymous reviewer
In the News
- The Washington Post featured Patrick, Jessica & Rescue in this lovely article.
- Read about Rescue's trip to the ASPCA Dog of the Year awards show in this excellent Boston Globe article.
- Our cover reveal appeared in our hometown Boston Globe.
- Rescue is the ASPCA dog of the year! Read more about him and Patrick and Jessica here.
- Here's a profile on Patrick & Jessica where you can read about how our book came together.
- Here's a little backgrounder on Patrick & Jessica and their struggles in the years just after the bombing.
- Be sure to check out this video to learn how Patrick & Jessica are working to ensure victims of terrorism will have access to military medicine by way of the bipartisan Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes Act.
On Social Media
On the Road
Images captured on the promotional tour and more.
Behind the Scenes
Here are some development sketches I created while working on Rescue & Jessica. Click on the thumbnails to expand and read more about each.
Sketch Time Lapse
Watch how the sketch for this spread evolved over time.