Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Jubilee

Jubilee

Patricia Reilly Giff
Fiction
For ages 8 and up
Random House, 2016   ISBN: 978-0385744867

When Judith was just a toddler, her teenage mother came to the island and left the little girl with her aunt Cora. Not long after being left behind like “a bundle of laundry,” Judith stopped talking. She was seen by doctors and they decided that Judith would talk when she was ready. In the meantime Judith uses pictures and her hands to communicate, though the people who know her well, Aunt Cora, Gideon, and little five-year-old Travis, seem to be able to understand her by reading her face.

The day before fifth grade is supposed to start, Judith is down by the water when she sees a man drop a dog off the side of a boat and then sail out to sea. Without hesitating she dives into the water and goes out to help the dog. In no time at all Dog is hers and Aunt Cora is perfectly happy to add the rescued animal to her household.

Fifth grade is going to be a challenge because Judith is going to be put in a regular class with children her age. She will no longer be in the special needs class. Ms. Quirk, Judith’s new teacher, says that they will “make it a year of firsts.” Judith dares to hope that perhaps this will be the year when she sees her mother, she reunites with her former best friend, and she talks. Judith is nervous, but she wants to have a more normal life, and she really wants to talk. Perhaps, maybe, she will find her voice if she is with more children in a regular classroom.

The first day of school starts off well enough, but it soon falls apart when Sophie, the former best friend, says, “Nobody wants you.” Deeply hurt by these words Judith runs off and spends much of the rest of the day with Dog are her special place. When she gets home in the late afternoon Ms. Quirk is waiting for her. She does not chastise Judith or shout at her. Instead, she tells Judith about the nature study project that they are going to be starting and how they are going to work in pairs, with partners.

On Monday Judith goes to school and she is partnered with Sophie, who completely ignores Judith. Purely by chance Judith ends up working with a very messy boy called Mason. Unlike Sophie, who is unkind, Mason is gentle, and he even takes the blame when a nest that Judith finds is ruined.

A few days later Ms. Quirk permanently pairs up Judith and Mason. The interesting thing is that Judith is okay with this and soon she and the messiest boy in the school are putting together a project about turtles. The more she gets to know Mason, the more Judith understands and appreciates him. Could it be that he is becoming her friend?

Things are progressing nicely when Aunt Cora gets a card from Amber, Judith’s mother. Judith sneaks a peak at the card and finds out that her mother wants to see her. Here at last is Judith’s chance to meet the mother she barely remembers. Here is her chance to find out why her mother left her behind in the first place. After thinking things over, Judith decides that her only choice is to leave the island and go to the mainland to see her mother. Which means that she has to leave Aunt Cora, Dog, and Mason behind.

This remarkable book explores how a child who was abandoned finds her voice, in more ways than one. She imagines that her mother is the solution to all her problems, only to discover that the solution she has been looking for is in the place she least expects to find it. Though this is a book for children, its universal theme and the author’s beautiful writing make it a wonderful fit for readers of all ages, including adults.

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