Archive for the ‘Ali Benjamin’ Category

Reading, like other things, go in cycles. TheThingAboutJellyfishThe Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is the first of two books in a row I’ve read about a girl losing her best friend. (The second WhenKaceyLeftis When Kacey Left by Dawn Green.)

Twelve year old Suzy (aka Zu) lost her best friend Franny during the summer. Franny drowned while on vacation. However, Zu can’t come to grips with this because Franny was a great swimmer. She remembers when they met at their first swim class when Zu didn’t want to go into the pool and Franny just plopped in and swam to the other side. Zu then did the same and they became fast friends. Her mother’s explanation that ‘things just happen’ doesn’t quiet her mind.

Zu evaluates all the possible causes of Franny’s drowning and comes up with the idea that she was bitten by a poisonous Irukandji jellyfish and her goal now is to prove it. She decided not to talk (because there is nothing important to say) until she’s proven her hypothesis, which of course worried her parents who sent her to ‘the kind of doctor you can talk to.”

But there’s something else bothering Zu as well: she and Franny did not part on good terms. Would it have been different if she had known she’d never see Franny again? Of course, but you can’t change the past.

The Thing About Jellyfish is finely written middle grade book about losing a best friend, about being or becoming a loner, about overcoming loneliness and remembering good times. In the process, Benjamin contemplates the changes middle graders (especially girls) go through, how a loner in elementary school might be part of the ‘in-crowd’ in middle school and what she might do to a best friend to maintain her social status and the impact of her actions.

And finally, Ms. Benjamin imparts a tremendous amount of information about jellyfish that boggled this reader’s mind: their longevity as a species, their lethal venom, their growing population and its impact on other water borne species and their ability to regress in the face of danger.

The Thing About Jellyfish, deservedly,  has been getting accolades in all the library journals and The New York Times. It is a tenderhearted story that kids and adults will enjoy.

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