Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Tears of the class clown - review of Jelly by Jo Cotterill

Jelly is the sort of heart-warming story that so many children (and adults) will find it very easy to relate to. It is the story of the class clown, who is using humour to hide their insecurities.

Jelly's impressions are legendary. She has the class in fits. She's voted by the class to take part in the talent show. She has great friends; is always picked for the sports team.

But now in the last year of primary school, Jelly's self-awareness in growing. She starts to recognise that she mainly plays up and tries to get people to laugh with her because she feels it will stop people laughing at her. Despite all her popularity, she is very insecure because she is fat, so her self-belief is very low.

It's clever of Jo Cotterill to have the insecure main character as being one of the popular girls. It so neatly draws attention to the fact of how much everyone plays a part and that the public face people show may not be who they truly feel to be inside. And it emphasises that to show our true feelings is exposing and uncomfortable and takes an awful lot of bravery, as Jelly finds out.

Another really great feature of the story that the person who notices Jelly's unhappiness is her mum's new boyfriend, Lennon. Seeing such a positive male role model in a story is a very neat twist, rather than using the new man in Mum's life as a source of uncomfortable conflict, and I loved this storyline.

Lennon is they key that gives Jelly the confidence to face up to her fears. 

Jelly starts to question whether she really even likes performing. She loves writing poems, which she never even shows to her closest friends. And when her friends start telling her than her impressions are crossing a line from being funny into being cruel, a crisis looms.

Jelly is such a warm and thoughtful character and the reader is really rooting for her as she wonders if she will be brave enough to reveal a new Jelly, one who admits their true feelings and acts more like the person she feels she is inside. Lennon, Jelly's lovely mum and her friends surround Jelly with so much goodness, creating a really feelgood story.

It really is a cracking tale about how outwardly confident people are often as insecure as everyone else and should give plenty of food for thought as well as being a joy to read.

Nicki Thornton

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