Monday, July 26, 2021

It All Begins with Jelly Beans, by Nova Weetman

It all begins in the nurse's office where Meg and Riley meet and share a bag of jelly beans.  The two girls are very different.  Riley hangs out with popular girls like queen bee Lina, while Meg is a misfit who comes to school in ratty old clothes and a pair of bath slippers.  Yet, what they don't understand at first (but come to appreciate in time) is that the nurse's officer serves a common purpose for both of them:  a refuge from the pressures they are facing at the end of sixth grade.

Meg wears old clothes because her mother has become a recluse since the death of her Dad.  With her mother unable to leave the house, Meg has to find a way to feed and take care of them both, which involves relying on the generosity of a few adults.  This includes the school nurse, who finds ways to smuggle Meg leftovers from the teacher's lounge.  Riley, who seems so popular and happy, is in fact living in shame of her diabetes, for which she has to constantly monitor her glucose levels and wears a programmable pump.  This makes her stand out in a not-so-good way and she wishes her friends would not make fun of her for it (and maybe also whether they are truly her friends).

When both girls are tapped to give speeches at their graduation ceremony, the acquaintance they developed over candy blossoms into a real friendship.

While not very original material, Weetman's book about friendship, peer pressure, and standing up for oneself is heartwarming and sweet.  It features two of my least favorite scenarios (i.e., a child who won't seek help from adults and a child who succumbs to peer pressure at the risk of their own well-being -- in both cases out of pride), but it has a happy ending that shows that things don't have to be so bad and that there is a pay off for demanding what you need.

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