When I first saw this book, I was intrigued by the title and the cover. It's the last of the nominees for the 2016 Silver Birch Fiction Awards that I needed to read before the results come in! The winner will be announced on May 18.
Jelly Miles would rather be playing video games with his best friend P.B. than preparing for a speech competition. In fact, he’d rather be doing just about anything else. So he’s as surprised as anyone that he’s taking this year’s competition seriously. At first, it’s for the awesome prize. But when the competition turns ugly, Jelly realizes it’s his chance to finally get the last word with the class know-it-all. With his reputation, self-respect and the friendship he values most on the line, can Jelly find the courage to get up in front of the whole school and show his true self?
Laugh-out-loud funny, Speechless is about standing up to bullying, knowing who your friends are and finding your own unique voice.
Speechless was written by Jennifer Mook-Sang and published by Scholastic in 2015.
Jelly’s character had some interesting hobbies (e.g., ventriloquism) and skills (e.g., he’s a computer genius) but what I really loved most about his character was his humor. He had a realistic personality that hooked me from the beginning of the story. This book tackles typical middle grade themes such as bullying, friendship and learning to be yourself.
I really liked the way the author used a speech contest as the backbone of the plot and built the other events around it. It kept the story focused but allowed room to explore and connect other subplots, such as Jelly’s work with the food bank.
“The door of the school library burst open and Parker blasted in.”
“I will never understand girls.”
“Of course I was trying to stay out of trouble. But unfortunately, these days, trouble seemed to be lying in puddles all around me.”
“I took slow breaths and tried to keep the fear-excitement gathered into a small, cold knot in my middle, instead of rampaging through my whole body.”
“With all the presentations and class circles, I’m sure the bullies had learned more about how to bully than they’d ever be able to use in a lifetime.”
Jennifer Mook-Sang lives in Burlington, Ontario. Speechless is her first middle grade novel.
Reflect: Have you ever given a speech? What was the most difficult part of it for you? Think of one strategy to help yourself work through that challenge.
Think up your own set of steps or strategies for giving a speech. Create a comic or short story that uses all your steps.
Create your own anti-bullying slogan or use Jelly’s (Speak Up, Speak Out) and design an anti-bullying poster.