In light of the infectious and extraordinary joy that young Judith brings to her Aunt Cora’s life, the fifth grader has earned the nickname “Jubilee.” But Jubilee holds trauma deep within, as she hasn’t spoken a word—except when alone or with Dog—since her mother broke their relationship and dropped her off to live with Aunt Cora. She communicates entirely with gestures, taps and doodled cartoons.
As fifth grade begins, Jubilee is paired with talkative Mason for a class project, and a tentative friendship blooms. But Jubilee is consumed with questions about her mother’s estrangement. Through pain and confusion, Judith embarks on a journey of self-discovery, searching for answers to the tenacious question that has shattered her world since her early ages: “Why did my mom abandon me?” Allowing herself to break free from the barriers of difference and solitude, Jubilee discovers that her world is full of love and compassion—a feeling she once doubted and debated in her most private moments.
Patricia Reilly Giff, author of Newbery Honor book Lily’s Crossing, touches upon the torment of abandonment and its influence on young people. In this tale told through the eyes of a developing fifth grader, Giff sensitizes the overwhelming feelings that come with desertion and insecurity. Affording Jubilee the gifts of humor and artistic expression, Giff allows her heroine to step outside of her comfort zone and take control of her personal happiness. Jubilee’s illustrations throughout the book offer a deeper look into her extraordinary heart.
Entering a new grade, learning to cope with peers and bullies and balancing academics and personal family struggles are all challenges faced by children. Jubilee is an exceptional story about self-discovery, forgiveness and the art of letting go. It's also about the power everyone holds within themselves to see the world not for what it is, but for what it could be.