Just Be Jelly

Little, Brown. Jun. 2021. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316523288.
PreS-K–An uptight, rule-following sardine learns to relax from a tranquil jellyfish. There are 19,000 safety rules for sardines: Never slow down; never talk to predators; always stick together. A particularly anxious sardine panics after being separated from the group. While searching for a place to hide, the sardine smacks into a serene jellyfish. “Your nervous swishy-swishy is crushing my zone of zen,” reports the jellyfish, instructing the sardine how to relax and “just be jelly.” But can “jelly vibes” save the sardine from hungry predators? A variety of digital, mixed-media sea creatures with comical facial expressions enliven the ocean scenes. The frantic movements of the sardine are nicely contrasted with the fluid, laid-back motions of the jellyfish. The dialogue text reads well with the illustrations and keeps the story moving swiftly. However, preschoolers may lose the finer points of the narrative in the comic-book paneled structure. Additionally, in typical comics style, dialogue is assigned by proximity within the illustration without textual context, making it difficult for a non-reading audience to distinguish who is speaking.
VERDICT Though this is an optional purchase, it has a breezy drollery about finding inner peace and going with the flow—perhaps everyone could use a little jelly.

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