Angelica, nicknamed Jelly, uses her storytelling abilities to avert a crisis at the animal-rescue center where her parents serve on the board.
Jelly has known Mwezi, a lioness rescued from Tanzania, all her life, and she amazes her friend Joon with her ability to get Mwezi’s attention. When a new boy named Leopold shows up looking to write a story for his school newspaper and asks Jelly if she’s a lion trainer, Jelly can’t resist the temptation to become just that for the day. Her friend Joon believes her too, and as she uses her vast knowledge of lions for support, Jelly’s “stories” become more and more elaborate. Leopold grows skeptical as Jelly gets “swept away”; “Joon is a better audience because she believes all my stories,” Jelly tells her readers. But when Mwezi goes missing, Joon’s insistence that Jelly is handy and knows how to call Mwezi earns Jelly a spot on the search team. When they find her, Jelly’s handiness and her storytelling both help lead Mwezi back to her enclosure. Similarly imaginative chapter-book readers will connect with Jelly, and there’s no question the lion facts are cool. Full- and half-page illustrations throughout the book suggest that Jelly is mixed-race, Joon is Asian, and Leopold and other characters are white.
While Jelly’s tales go on a bit too long, her skills and the story’s action-packed ending, however implausible, reward readers who stay tuned. (Fiction. 6-10)