Jelly-boy by Nicole Godwin

cover image

Illus. by Christopher Nielsen. Walker Books, 2020. ISBN: 9781760651237. hbk., 32pp.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. When the jelly fish becomes entangled with her jelly-boy, an unusually shaped animal that floats in the sea, she is blown away with his daring and bravery. He is big and strong, but he doesn't glow in the dark like others of her ilk, and her family is not keen on him.
But they float around in the ocean, riding the swells, diving down deep, exploring, braving the stormy water. But one day his bravery almost ends with his demise as he floats up towards the propellor of a boat. All is well, but they are taken up by a fast current of water. In this current she sees many other jelly-boys, just like him, dangerous, destructive and deadly. She cannot break herself away from them until her family comes to her rescue and join tentacles to drag her clear.
By now the reader will have worked out what jelly-boy is, and they will look back to see how the writer and illustrator have shown the destructive power of plastic bags in the ocean. This amazing story will move children to ask questions, to take plastic bags to task, to think about their use of the plastic bag and ask the question at home. The last page of the book outlines some disturbing facts about the plastic bag and its harm to our environment, and propel readers to action.
Godwin's message is relayed by using straightforward, unencumbered short, sentences, creating images that will stay with the reader, while the mix of medium used by Nielsen in his illustrations creates a world beneath the ocean, at once blue and beautiful, but undermined by death and destruction in the form of the plastic bag. The layout with large print moving with the ocean, parallels the movement within the ocean and that taken by the fish and the plastic bags. Some words are written in bold: deadly, destruction, dangerous, for example, forcing the reader to say them out loud, reiterating the wanton nature of the jelly-boy.
Children will delight spying the various creatures that inhabit the ocean, but be dismayed when noting the evidence of pollution in the form of the plastic bags, tins and discarded rubbish.
A wonderful read aloud as well as a cunning cautionary tale about the destructive nature of the plastic bag in our environment, this book deserves a place in every classroom to be read and discussed along with a rethink of their use of the plastic bag. Themes: Sea creatures, Pollution, Jellyfish, Environment, Marine pollution.
Fran Knight