Just Right Jillian

Just Right Jillian cover
Just Right Jillian by Nicole D. Collier

By Nicole D. Collier
Versify/HarperCollins, 2022
224 pages

Ages 8-12

The girls in Jillian’s fifth-grade class try hard to look alike. They wear the same bland, neutral colors and ho-hum hairstyles on the same days each week. Jillian, bored by this unofficial uniform, longs to be herself—and speak up more, too—but she’s afraid to stand out. Before her beloved grandmother died, Jillian promised her she would work on growing her confidence despite her extreme shyness; her mom (who has lupus) and dad also encourage her to be herself. So when Jillian’s teacher urges her to enter the school-wide Mind Bender trivia competition, Jillian feels that this is her chance. She is bright and knows many of the answers, but freezes when it comes time to show her knowledge in front of an audience. Fortunately, her main competition, Rashida, turns out to be more friend than “foe.” With support from Rashida and another classmate-turned-friend, Jillian, who is Black, learns to relax and focus when her anxiety flares. Meanwhile, as Jillian begins to come out of her shell, she and her classmates anxiously monitor a dozen chicken eggs incubating in their classroom. As Jillian observes how the chicks that developed prepare to hatch, each in its own time, she further pushes herself, despite her anxiety. In a novel reflecting deep understanding of social anxiety and the grounding power of creativity, Jillian reveals more of who she is little by little, including her colorful personal style and talent for weaving. Her classmates prove eager to get to know her. ©2022 Cooperative Children’s Book Center