Amy Pollack's visit to Knollwood School has intrigued and inspired our students. The students found a new passion for writing and a new belief that they, too, could become authors if they put their minds to it.
After hearing a portion of Amy's book, the students couldn't wait to hear more. The main character of her books, Jelly Bean, is relatable, fun, and perfectly imperfect. We'll be on the edge of our seats waiting for book number three.
Thank you so much, Amy!
In this series, young readers meet lovable Jelly Bean, a fourth grader who frequently finds herself in the midst of family chaos. Accompanying Jelly Bean on her adventures is her faithful dog, Roger-Over. In the first book, young readers follow Jelly Bean as she’s late for school after falling in the toilet when her brothers leave the toilet seat raised. However, even after all the mishaps, Jelly Bean has a great Halloween, even though she learns that some of her friends live very different lives from her own. In the second book, readers find Jelly Bean in even more difficult situations. Her family is divided because of her brother Michael’s decision to join the Marines. Jelly Bean’s grandpa dies, and Jelly Bean learns the meaning of grief. Young readers also accompany Jelly Bean as she learns valuable lessons about friendships and how, even though a person may not want things to change, they inevitably do.
What parents may notice about Jelly Bean is that, in reality, she is an exemplary role model. Jelly Bean is, without a doubt, always herself. Her individuality is an inspiration to young readers, and Jelly Bean, no matter what she faces, embraces the experience with curiosity. This lesson is particularly evident in the second book. When Jelly Bean’s brother, Michael, decides to join the United States Marines, her parents are consumed by Michael’s decision, and they frequently overlook their daughter. Nonetheless, it is a time of growth and maturity for the protagonist. For example, Jelly Bean discovers that all the experiences are “like puzzle pieces,” and “somehow they all fit together” because everything has a place. She also learns to take ownership, as each of the pieces belong to her. Ultimately, it is up to Jelly Bean to decide how these pieces best fit together. As readers travel through each new experience with the main character, they learn the value of learning to adapt to new situations early in life.
These books also hold valuable lessons for adults, which makes them even more powerful. For example, even though Jelly Bean and Roger-Over’s adventures are the books’ central focus, one cannot overlook the parents’ role in each book. Adult readers can find value in what Jelly Bean’s parents offer adult readers about patience and raising children who are very different from one another. This is particularly evident in the first book. Jelly Bean’s mother faces constant bickering between Jelly Bean and her brother Joel. Jelly Bean’s mother gracefully offers that her hope for the two is that one day, Joel and Jelly Bean will make up their minds to love each other and be kind to one another. Even though their mother states, “That’s what would make me happy,” she poses the benefits it would have for both Jelly Bean and Joel: “And it would be rewarding for you both.”
The author's engaging books will inspire readers of all ages. Those who are fans of Judy Blume’s books, and especially fans of Blume’s Superfudge and Freckle Juice, will appreciate the new young heroine these books offer to the world.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
"A young girl braves daily hurdles and unwelcome life changes in Pollack’s middle-grade novel and series launch.
It’s not always easy for Jillian “Jelly Bean” Kramer to get noticed. The fourth-grader is the youngest of four children in her
New Jersey household, but it’s her three brothers who hog their parents’ attention. While that’s long been the situation with
her family, things aren’t going so great at school, either. Jelly Bean has a spectacularly bad day when she misses a
chance at a speaking part in the upcoming Thanksgiving play simply for being tardy (her brothers’ fault, of course) and
winds up in the principal’s office after allegedly disrupting the class. But that’s only a taste of how terribly everything has
been going—her best friend, Taylor Alpert, has very recently turned mean in her attempts to cozy up to the most popular
girl in their grade. Once Jelly Bean is “banished” from her regular lunchtime seat, she gets the sense that she has no
friends. At least she’s got her fun-loving Uncle Jack at home, but he’s starting to spend more time with his fiancé, who isn’t
an especially nice person. “All these new things keep happening,” Jelly Bean laments. “I liked everything better the old
way. I can’t get used to everything new!” Now she’s a lonely girl who honestly feels that most people don’t like her and that
no one at all cares about her. What she can do, however, is face each day and stay true to herself; maybe her life will
show signs of perking up.
Pollack’s titular hero shines; she’s likable and relatable, an even blend of relatable worries and drama-queen moments.
She cries when her beloved dog, Roger-Over, sprints out the front door, but she also schemes to get out of rehearsals by
declaring she’s going to faint (“Your own daughter is about to pass out, and you don’t even act upset”). As frequently as
she points out all that’s wrong in her life, Jelly Bean proves surprisingly resilient; she accepts people for who they are,
even if an individual takes out their frustrations on her. While several characters are as mean-spirited as Jelly Bean claims,
the narrative boasts an equal number of bright spots. Most notable is the scene-stealing Roger-Over, who’s pure joy in a
furry package. The author breathes life into this cast, providing a varied assortment of characters with myriad dimensions,
like the mixed-bag of Jelly Bean’s brothers—Sam is the nice one, Joel is the resident jerk, and Michael, the oldest, all but
ignores his sister. Taylor doesn’t seem to be impressing anyone with her bid to be popular, and one outwardly
warmhearted schoolmate may, sadly, be too weird for Jelly Bean’s comfort. This relatively short novel moves at a steady
pace, taking Jelly Bean from one dilemma to the next.
An endearing, plucky girl endures and overcomes in this absorbing quick read."
- Kirkus Reviews
"Thank you again for coming to Northvail and speaking to our 4th & 5th Grade students. We wanted to let you know that we appreciated your visit, so all of the students posted a thank you on a Padlet. Enjoy reading what they had to say.
Looking forward to having you come back again!"