Summary: Just Right Jillian
In Just Right Jillian, Jillian is a shy fifth grader put to the test when her teacher suggests she join the Mind Bender quiz competition. Her class is also learning about chick development and incubating a few too! As Jillian works to improve her mindset and use her voice, she also has to deal with the grief of losing her grandmother, her mom’s lupus flares, and helping out a friend dealing with his own family challenges. Will Jillian get it right?
Jillian is a likable character and I related with her shyness and mindset issues about speaking up and feeling like she had something worthy to say. The class activity with hatching chicks was super interesting to me and added a nice layer of suspense and STEM interest to the story. I loved reading about quiz contests generally so I enjoyed watching Jillian compete.
Another great part of the story is Jillian’s relationship with her parents, how supportive they are and the way they let her be her own person. Jillian’s mother has lupus and we see a bit of how her flares affect her life as well as how she tries to manage the condition. Jillian is also grieving the death of her grandmother and trying to find her way back into a hobby she associates with her grandma — weaving. Finally, I loved Jillian’s friendship with Marquez and the way they looked out for each other.
Overall: Just Right Jillian
Just Right Jillian is a sweet young middle grade debut that elementary and middle schoolers alike will love. It started a bit slowly for me but Jillian really grew on me. I loved the parallels between the hatching chicks and Jilly bean coming out of her shell. It was also important to have a parent who’s dealing with chronic health issues but doing her best to be there for her kid. Overall, family, community, and using your voice come through loud and clear in this one!