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Jitterbug Jam (New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books (Awards)) Hardcover – February 24, 2005

16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3–In this tale of bedtime anxiety, Little Bobo is teased by his older brother because he's afraid of a boy under his bed. Yet the young monster claims he's no fraidy-cat, neither, because who wouldn't be scared of a boy with pink skin and orange fur on his head where his horns by right should be, and eyes that awful color the sky is when you wake up in the middle of the day…. Then Boo-Dad (grandfather) shows up. As family members swig hot bug juice and eat slabs of homemade bread with jitterbug jam, he tells of his own childhood encounter with a human. Bobo finds comfort and courage in the tale, and, at bedtime, when the boy appears, Bobo is ready for him. The story is told in an on-again-off-again folksy dialect, and is too lengthy and confusing for young audiences. For example, the beginning of Boo-Dad's tale is visually set apart from the rest of the story, but there is no clear ending. Despite the textual problems, the art is beautiful. With muted colors, black outlines, and shadows, it will both enchant and frighten young readers. Carefully detailed bugs and other critters frame Boo-Dad's story and cover the walls, Mama's dress, and the endpapers. The text is presented in traditional format and dialogue balloons. The book's audience is older children who have outgrown their fear of monsters.–Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Gr. 1-3. Though this isn't as concise as Mercer Mayer's classic There's a Nightmare in My Closet (1968), Hicks' crackerjack read-aloud offers a common variation on the typical kid-versus-nighttime-bogey story. Little monster Bobo is convinced that a scary boy is responsible for the "scritch-scratch-skittering" under his bed. Galvanized by advice from his affable grandpa, delivered over bedtime snacks of toast and jitterbug jam, Bobo confronts and befriends his intruder. Though Bobo, a behorned, chimplike fellow clad in union-suit "jim-jams," is as soul-tuggingly cute as Deacon's alien protagonist from Beegu (2004), it's the creators' idiosyncratic vision that sets this apart from other, similarly themed picture books. Printed on luxurious, buff-colored paper, Deacon's line-and-watercolor artwork unites cleverly altered Victorian decorative elements, such as wallpaper patterned with beetles and snails, with the striking, varied design of contemporary graphic novels. First-time writer Hicks' folksy, slightly off-kilter language, full of fractured grammar and quirky aphorisms, keeps the sense of an exotic, alternate reality watertight. The monsters on every page may be too much for some sensitive young ones, but many other nighttime worriers will be reassured and amused by this charming visit to the other side of the closet wall. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Series: New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Books (Awards)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR); 1st edition (March 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374336857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374336851
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 0.4 x 12.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,670 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think." --Native American Proverb

Children's book author, speaker and teacher BARBARA JEAN HICKS claims that everything she knows about writing, she learned from her favorite cat. Miguel had a nose for adventure, she says, leaping into the unknown like an old-world explorer, learning along the way. And he had the scars to prove it.

A writer, too, is a curious creature, Barbara says, always sniffing about for new ideas. Observing, reading, eavesdropping. Haunting favorite places and exploring new ones. Paying attention.

"For me," says Barbara, "starting a story is an adventure, a leap into the unknown. I might begin with a curious bit of dialogue, a vivid description, a word or phrase that tickles my funny bone. Before I have any real idea where I'm going, I'm on my way. I let the writing take me where it wants to. It's only after I've plunged into a project that I begin to find out what it's really about. The act of writing teaches me what my story is, how it wants to be told, why it matters. Slowly. Rewrite after rewrite. Not very efficient, I'm afraid. Messy. Unpredictable. Fun!" Her writing mantra, Barbara claims, is simple: Look, leap and learn!

Almost as much as she loves to write, Barbara loves presenting assemblies and writing workshops in schools as a visiting author. She has taught at every level from preschool to community college and worked in an elementary school as author-in-residence, program facilitator and parent educator. In conjunction with her school visits, Barbara also offers a publishing program for student work.

Barbara Jean, a.k.a. the Story Queen, lives in Oxnard, California but considers Northwest Washington her home. Visit her online at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on April 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Alexis Deacon's distinctive artwork offers an impressive visual context for Jitterbug Jam, Barbara Jean Hicks' original story about Bobo, a young monster who is afraid of what is under his bed at night. Bobo is sure there is a boy lurking underneath his bed, with "pink skin and orange fur on his head where his horns should be". Bobo's brother chastises him for being a scaredy-cat; Bobo's grandpa, Boo-Dad, knows exactly how to scare the fearful creature away. Yet after being frightened for such a long time, Bobo considers taking matters into his own paws and discovering if the creature under the bed really is that terrible! A charming and wonderful story about how new friends could be just around the corner.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on August 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the gift we are giving to all the pre-schoolers/kindergarteners in our circle this year. The illustrations are lovely and the the dialogue lends itself to a "drawl" for the out-loud reader. It is a charming book to read and look at all wrapped around the gem of a lesson about stereotypes. We have received phone calls of gratitude and praise from the homes to which we have made this book a gift.

Older kids might like it too, Pre-K and K-5 is our peer group.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on May 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book gets a 10 out of 5 for the illustrations - ok so that is an impossible score, but this is just such a superbly illustrated book, My children and I just look at it for huge periods of time, talking about the pictures, and what the detail in them is about.

I found the story strong, but not as riveting as some. It has some hugely original touches - the grandfather monster, the jitterbug jam, and the scary ginger haired boy under the bed (who is making bobo scared). The story is less interesting than the illustrations though. It is fun, original, but it doesn't seem to flow as easily as other children's books, relying on some good ideas to take it through rahter than smoothly flowing text.

As I said, the illustrations are just so amazing. The characters are appealing, and the way emotion is conveyed is really great. How the head is held, the carriage of the body, the hugging. There are a huge array of presentations too - full page pictures, sometimes small figures on a ribbon.

My children are fascinated by it. It is simply a wonderful book and I will be looking out for more of the same. It desrves to be a classic
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ann Wilson on January 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I think this book about monsters in reverse is an excellent tool for dispelling a child's fear of monsters under the bed. Barbara tells the tale of a little monster who fears the BOY under his bed. His loving grandfather tells about a similar fear he had and how it worked out. The little monster eventually gets brave enough to look under the bed and actually meet the boy he finds there. Together, they discover that they have a great deal in common and there is no reason to fear each other. The tale is told with humor and the illustrations are great. I highly recommend this book for all children!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
We were already big fans of Alexis Deacon's, thanks to "Slow Loris". But we were really impressed with the complexity of the illustrations in this book - they're gorgeous (always important if you've got a preschooler or two).

As for the story - what a great way to introduce kids to the idea that differences don't have to be a basis for fear. My elementary-schooler was blown away by the thought that a kid monster might find a kid human scary - and then she grasped really quickly that having the kid experience in common outweighed any other differences between the protagonist and the scary creature lurking in his room.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on January 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Here's what I love about children's books. Any author can take a worn overdone concept and make a book out of it. If the author is good, however, the worn overdone concept becomes storytime gold. Adult books, for all their charms, haven't the advantages that children's picture books have in this respect. Now when I first heard the concept of "Jitterbug Jam" I was unimpressed. Seemed to me we'd seen it all before. Monster under bed, kid scared, monster scared, they meet, and all ends up ducky by the title's finale. Ho hum. Adding to my ignorance was author Barbara Jean Hicks. It appears that prior to this book she was best known for her Christian romance novels. I kid you not. Such written works may have their following, but they rarely cross over into kiddie lit very smoothly. Illustrator Alexis Deacon was slightly more familiar, if only because he created that odd little bugger, "Beegu", not so long ago. Then I took a deeper read of "Jitterbug Jam" and all half-hearted whimpers about familiarity went skittering out the door. Cute without pandering and treading a delicate line between the precious and the preachy, the book ends up being a highly intelligent cry from a little monster that all children will be able to identify with.

Bobo the jammy-wearing monster and hero of our tale is not going to bed tonight. No sir, nuh-uh, not gonna do it. Why? Because it is crystal clear to Bobo that there is a boy under his bed. A particularly scary boy at that with, "pink skin and orange fur on his head where his horns by right should be". Fortunately his one-monster protest is interrupted by the presence of his beloved grandfather, Boo-Dad.
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