"Peanut Butter and Jellyfish" by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a picture book that will grow on you. The two main characters, cleverly named Peanut Butter (a seahorse) and Jellyfish (a jellyfish, of course), suffer from the bullying of a neighboring crab.
Kids will pick up on the play on words as Crab is very crabby. He bullies the two friends and makes fun of them whenever they pass by. They respond with the underwater version of "sticks and stones..." but the bullying continues.
When Crab is in trouble, the two friends don't debate long -- they rush to help him. By using their wits (and Jellyfish's many arms) they manage to save Crab from a horrible fate.
Honestly, when I first read the book I was not impressed. While I loved the illustrations -- they are bright and bold -- the story seemed trite and silly. But when I read the book to Mrs. Kim's second grade class, they absolutely loved the story.
Through discussion, the students talked about how harsh words do really hurt -- sometimes more than physical injury. They also pointed out that the "treasure" the three creatures found at the end wasn't just the chest filled with gold pieces, but the friendship that had grown.
They also pointed out that perhaps Crab had been so unpleasant because he was jealous of the friendship between Jellyfish and Peanut Butter.
Not only did the two friends forgive Crab for his earlier enmity, they changed their activities so that he could join in. And the three of them became friends -- a great treasure.
This is a book that has a place on the shelf of many classroom libraries -- from preschool through third grade. It's a perfect vehicle to talk about bullying and why some kids may be bullies. Use it to discuss forgiveness and helping others even when they aren't your good friends. Some kids just may need a helping hand. And teachers can use it to point out how important it is to include others in activities. No one should feel, like Crab, left out.
Why 5-stars? For the great discussion topics it encourages.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Knopf Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.
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