There is something about Jerry Bean (""Jelly Bean"" to his friends) that makes Denny keep on rehearsing his trick riding act even though their circus is certain to be a disaster. Jelly is always full of ideas that don't work. He shows Denny how to do wheelies and big jumps, but Denny knows he is no trick bike rider. And the other kids aren't doing any better with their acts. All of them will be the laughingstock of the neighborhood when they leap around pretending to be wild animals while Jelly cracks the whip. Denny is full of doubts, and doesn't want to make a fool of himself. But being around Jelly Bean is an adventure with lots of laughs. Jelly, 12, is two years older and a leader who lets the younger boys in on things and treats them with respect. Denny is vying for Jelly's attention with his big brother, Scott, Jelly's best friend. He doesn't want to be like the sour Leo, who is determined to ""mess things up."" So when Jelly urges him to think about the high jump, then jump it the way he thinks it, Denny keeps on trying, even though he falls every time. Jelly's enthusiasm inspires almost everyone. Even the skeptical, jeering audience is impressed by his efforts, although nothing really comes off right the day of the circus. In a lively way, Hughes provides an instrument for studying what makes a charismatic leader. His characterization, however, is uneven. Jelly sometimes speaks more like the president of the local booster club than a 12-year-old. There are only two girls in the story, the Shively sisters, Charlotte and Sherry, who differ from the boys in being finicky whiners and the butt of the boys' jokes. While the story is not a page turner, readers may be held by the desire to learn how Jelly will pull off impending fiasco. Offering no magical salvation on the day of performance, Hughes' denouement is entirely believable.