Jelly is a book aimed at readers of 8-12. The story covers a wide range of issues including: body image, periods, appearance, weight, bullying, negative adult relationships, positive male role models, writing to express yourself, single parenthood, music and respect. The writing is clear and accessible, with a wide vocabulary and variety of literary devices and constructions (including poetry). The book runs to 261 pages divided into 33 chapters.
Jelly is very suitable for study in school; naturally, teachers will want to read the book themselves and assess its issues against the emotional maturity of their class. The protagonist, Angelica, is eleven years old and so the most obvious age groups are Y6 (10-11) and Y7 (11-12).
However, it has also successfully been used in reading for pleasure with other age groups, most notably this from a Y5 teacher:
“Read the book for pleasure with my Y5s [during the summer term] and we found ourselves pausing to discuss so often and naturally that it makes a great book to study. Most were entranced by it, and I felt the message of being yourself was particularly suitable for them. I don’t think I would have read it at the beginning of the year/ given it to most to read independently. I skimmed the parts about periods and went back to them after we’d done that in SRE. Had a fab convo about Lennon helping. And one afternoon they had so much to say that I told them to write it- I got poems and all sorts, beautifully written, they were inspired! And not just the girls. Boys’ parents came and thanked me for reading it because they were enjoying it so much they couldn’t stop talking about it!”
(Please note the above testimonial specifically mentions how much the boys in the class enjoyed the story. There is an unconscious tendency in many schools to steer boys away from books with female protagonists or family issues; I believe this does both the boys and the books a disservice.)
Author Jo Cotterill has created a huge resource bank for Jelly that is completely free to use. Please use the above drop-down menu, or click here to go to the Jelly resource page.
If you have used Jelly as a class text, please do email me firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how it went!