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Jenny Mei Is Sad

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Learn how to approach difficult emotions with compassion and understanding—and be the best friend you can be.

My friend Jenny Mei is sad. But you might not be able to tell.

Jenny Mei still smiles a lot. She makes everyone laugh. And she still likes blue Popsicles the best. But, her friend knows that Jenny Mei is sad, and does her best to be there to support her.

30 pages, Hardcover

Published June 15, 2021

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Tracy Subisak

7 books11 followers

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5 stars
168 (43%)
4 stars
170 (43%)
3 stars
42 (10%)
2 stars
9 (2%)
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0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews
Profile Image for Danielle.
Author 2 books223 followers
October 14, 2021
Like the space on the cover, this story gives space to Jenny Mei's sadness, by her lovely friend and her lovely teacher.
Profile Image for Morgan.
543 reviews
August 30, 2021
It's hard to be sad in a world that just keeps on spinning when your heart keeps on hurting but sometimes, if you're lucky like Jenny Mei, you find a friend who knows when to wait, how to listen, and what it means to stand by for "fun, not-fun, and everything in between."
35 reviews
October 7, 2020
This lyrical book is stunningly gorgeous in every way. Subisak's poetic writing is expertly paced and leaves air for the illustrations to convey the emotion and do the heavy lifting of the story. The strong yet delicate ink line with subtle yet rich color are a winsome combination.

This will be a favorite book of the year.
21 reviews
June 25, 2021
I love how it reminds people that someone can be sad and still seem ok or "happy" even. They never explicitly say why Mei is sad, but the final illustration in the story does give you an idea. It is really good.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
4,559 reviews177 followers
January 14, 2022
Oh, my heart. Jenny Mei is sad, on some days more than others. She has a friend who notices this is true, even when Jenny Mei is also smiling, generous, and funny. And her friend doesn't try to fix her. "...she knows I'm here / for fun and not-fun and / everything in between." Most stories would involve someone becoming happier as the narrative arc (happily ever after!), but I love how this one so simply takes a more realistic view.

"The illustrations for this book were done in India ink, Japanese watercolor, pastel, and colored pencil on Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper."
Profile Image for Liz.
1,538 reviews13 followers
September 13, 2022
A girl's friend is sad and shows that a good friend is there for the fun, the not-fun, and everything in between. Sometimes, people are sad, and there isn't a specific reason why. I'm glad this book emphasized that there is a magical way to fix it. Talking and listening can help, but just by being there, you are being a good friend.
9 reviews5 followers
November 23, 2022
Very clever illustrations with a very comforting message, I really enjoy books which are an easy read for children which can then be delved into deeper by adults about the complexity of the book. Would be a wonderful book to have in the classroom.
Profile Image for Peacegal.
9,792 reviews87 followers
July 13, 2021
Perhaps one of the most graceful books demonstrating to young children how to behave with a friend or classmate who is feeling sad. Just being a friend and being there for them can make a tremendous difference.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13k reviews268 followers
May 28, 2021
This picture book is a 3.5 for me, and its simplicity is deceptive. Emotions are hard to express and to explain at times, and this book could be useful in fostering a conversation or some sort of outlet for them on the part of youngsters at home or in the classroom. The story is told from the point of view of Jenny Mei's best friend. The two girls share a lot of activities, but the narrator knows her friend well enough to realize that Jenny Mei often hides her feelings. After all, she's often smiling and having fun, which some would take as signs that everything is all right in her world. But exteriors can be deceiving, and on one particular day, Jenny Mei rips a classmate's drawing of his family. The narrator waits for Jenny Mei as she stays after school to talk with her teacher, and then the two of them walk home together. They even enjoy eating popsicles and kicking rocks on the way home. The narrator knows her friend just needs her to listen or to spend time with her, and when she finally asks Jenny Mei how she's doing, she doesn't push matters when her friend doesn't answer. Instead, she places her arm around her reassuringly, evidence that she's in this friendship for the long haul, "for fun and not fun and everything in between" (unpaged). Created with India ink, Japanese watercolor, pastels, and colored pencils, the illustrations are simple but effective, and readers will want to make note of details that might be missed the first time around; for instance, facial expressions, posture, directions for the assignment on the board that sent Jenny Mei over the edge. It's hard to know exactly what Jenny Mei needs or how she is feeling, but having a supportive friend is essential. It can be unbearably hard to articulate what we are feeling since it may be a mixture of emotions. The last page gives readers a hint of what's been troubling Jenny Mei as the illustration shows her mother at the door of her house. She's leaning on a cane and has her hair covered. How encouraging it is that books like this exist to assure youngsters that their feelings are valid!
Profile Image for Stephanie Bange.
1,575 reviews13 followers
November 22, 2021
This little book should be shared with Emotion 101 classes...

Best friends can sense when something is not right about each other. It is important to understand that feelings need to be recognized by others and given time and support for the individual to work through them. Subisak is on the mark with this one, showing suggested actions to take when interacting with a child who is experiencing a bout of profound sadness - encouraging the child to express how they feel with a trusted adult, listening to the child if they want to talk freely (not plying them with questions or offering suggestions or advice), and just being with them physically are three of the best ways to show support.

The text is simple and to the point. No judgements at all. The illustrations were rendered in India ink, Japanese watercolor, pastel, and colored pencil on Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper. They are clean, use the white space well to show the importance of distance, and colorful. The two diverse girls (one Black, the other Asian) live in a diverse community and are comfortable letting down their guard with each other and moving forward.

This would be useful in bibliotherapy for counselors and therapists. Also, this is a solid choice to recommend for children who have suffered a loss of one kind or other and are experiencing sadness. They need to know they are not alone. Also a great title to explore and discuss when learning about different feelings people experience.

Highly Recommended for PreSchool-grade 3.
Profile Image for Erin *BookDragon_Library*.
815 reviews9 followers
March 10, 2022
This book has very simple text and beautiful watercolor and India ink illustrations. It is a story of one girl talking about her friend who is sad but sometimes "acts ok" when she is in class with others and laughs and seems happy but isn't on the inside. There is a scene where we see Jenny having a sad day and lashing out at a classmate by ripping his paper. Then we see her coming out of the office of (presumably) the school counselor. The two friends walk home together and stop for popsicles. Finally the girl asks Jenny how she is doing and Jenny doesn't say anything but tears start to fall and the friend puts her arm around her shoulder and just listens to the silence. When they get to Jenny's house a person who appears to be her mom with a head scarf and a can standing in the doorway greeting Jenny. We can conclude that the reason Jenny is sad is because her mom has a rather serious illness and she is just trying to figure out how to handle the fear and anxiety. There is nothing explicit about what is wrong with her mom.

This is a good SEL book with a lot of opportunities to discuss emotions and being a listener or good friend.

Notes: friendship, Asian girl, Black girl. sick parent, anger, sadness, emotions.

This book reminds me of another one I've read recently where the character is sad and the other character just sits next to him. maybe a boy and a bunny? yes. When the Rabbit Listened? Is that it?
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,117 reviews103 followers
June 26, 2021
A little girl knows that her best friend is sad. She can tell even though Jenny continues to smile, share and make others laugh. Some days though, Jenny isn’t as happy. She gets angry and has to stay late to talk with the teacher. The little girl waits for Jenny to be done and they walk home together. The walk is quiet and they stop for popsicles. One blue and one purple, one blue tongue and one purple tongue. Jenny doesn’t answer when she is asked how she is doing, but her friend stays with her for all of the fun and not-fun times.

This picture book sensitively looks at how a child experiencing a difficulty at home, in this case an adult facing a health crisis, changes and acts. It also shows what a supportive friendship looks like, which really means just being there, asking once, and then listening when they want to talk. The main character of the book isn’t named and the book is told in her voice, making it all the more personal.

The text of the book never directly shares what is happening to Jenny, but the pictures reveal it when Jenny returns home at the end of the day. The illustrations are focused on the girls themselves and their relationship with one another, whether they are across the room or holding hands.

Full of empathy and kindness. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Profile Image for Georgina Nutt.
16 reviews2 followers
October 8, 2022
Jenny Mei comes across as happy to all of those in her class, sharing, smiling and making others laugh. But deep down something is making Jenny Mei sad and this can sometimes result in her becoming angry. Although she doesn't share her sadness directly with her best friend, she can tell that Jenny Mei is sad and offers her comfort in a wonderful way. She is patient with her sharing not only a shoulder to cry on but their love for popsicles.

The illustrations in this book are beautifully made up of Japanese's watercolor. Consisting of subtle details from which the reader gets to know more about Jenny Mei and can infer reasons for her sadness without giving too much away. The illustrations complement the words in the story wonderfully with subtle changes in colour to support the meaning on that page. For instance when Jenny Mei is sad the page is washed with a blue tone to contrast the bright vibrant colours earlier on in the story where she is making her classmates laugh.

This book does a wonderful job of introducing the complex nature of sadness. Demonstrating how it is not always possible to know if someone is sad and how we can support them even if we don't know the reason behind it, being there for the 'fun, the not-fun and everything in-between'.
Profile Image for The Library Lady.
3,572 reviews517 followers
January 12, 2022
If you've read my reviews (thank you), you know that I'm not fond of didactic books and that I have a whole shelf here labelled Bibliotherapy Is A Crock. However, every once in a while a book arrives that is no Berenstain/quick cure book.

We never do find out why Jenny Mei is sad. As Jenny comes out of her house, the unnamed narrator sees two blurry figures inside the house--possibly in traditional clothes of some kind, but that's all.
There are hints in a sequence as school where their class is doing family pictures, another child seems to taunt Jenny with his, and she lashes out. Jenny is full of fun at times, yet at others her anger at whatever is making her sad flares up, but her friend patiently supports her because "being sad is hard."

Yes, it is. This is the sort of bibliotherapy I love--something that validates feelings and doesn't pretend they will just go away easily. It could promote some great discussions, particularly with kids who want to help a friend.

And I wish each of you reading this could have a friend as wonderful as Jenny Mei's.
Profile Image for Sara.
118 reviews3 followers
June 2, 2022
Being a friend doesn’t mean you are only there for the fun and happy times. Sometimes it means being there during the sad and quiet times. The times when you have to just be there and let them know you care.
📖 The book Jenny Mei Is Sad gives an excellent example to the many layers of sadness. While Jenny may smile, laugh, and be silly like the other students in class, her best friend knows that underneath that is a sadness that doesn’t truly go away. Showing what true friendship entails, Jenny Mei is shown the patience, understanding, and love that every person needs though out life.
📖 Author Tracy Subisak does a beautiful job in her book. I love stories that spark a deeper conversation, it can be a true help to parents navigating so many emotions in our children. I highly encourage you adding this book to your library!

Follow my bookstagram: instagram.com/emmiesbookcorner for more reviews!
Profile Image for Chelka Posladek.
98 reviews8 followers
June 23, 2021
Wow. I realize the author wrote this after her mom passed away from cancer, and Jenny Mei also has a mom fighting cancer (shown on the last page). But this book spoke to me about depression. Grief is like depression, I guess, in that it makes people uncomfortable and lasts longer than is socially approved. But this story resonated with me because I have a long, long relationship with depression. And the idea that I don't always look sad or act sad is incredibly true. This book would be a wonderful way to initiate conversations with kids about depression, as well as grief. And simply to explain that when we (or they) get angry, it's usually because of something else (like sadness). This is a really simple book, but it packs a big punch.

Note: I haven't actually read this to my kids yet, so the five stars is from me alone.
Profile Image for Robbi C.
209 reviews18 followers
October 21, 2021
There's so much I love about this book but it really all boils down to it being a great conversation starter. The sparse text paired with the simple, adorable illustrations give us plenty of context to work with for kids asking questions. For example, kids might wonder why Jenny Mei is sad and there's multiple answers here. Context clues may lead someone to believe they have the answer but the text does a great job of leaving the answer out *and* (more importantly) emphasizing that not having the answer to that question does not matter as much as what you can do for someone and how you can make them feel. The importance is truly placed on being a good friend, which isn't about solving Jenny's sadness, but staying with her through it. Beautiful book and a great resource to help kids understand things that are hard to put in words.
Profile Image for Mathew.
1,473 reviews171 followers
January 31, 2022
To everyone else in the classroom, Jenny Mei may come across as happy but her best friend knows better. Beneath the smiles, Jenny is churning a private sadness that she rarely shares. These hidden feelings instead can reveal themselves in flits of anger in the classroom.

To the careful reader, there are hints of what might be making Jenny Mei sad but it is not required to understand the story which is that sometimes just 'being there' can be exactly what someone needs. Subisak's sparing prose (a sentence on every page) and use of white space to focus on characters makes for a more energetic and charge reading when Jenny Mei boils over and lets out her frustration.

Lots here for discussion with an author who knows how much to give and how much to leave in the reader's hands to reinterpret.
Profile Image for Jane Smith.
Author 11 books12 followers
October 6, 2022
Jenny Mei is bright and full of smiles. She’s a good friend and a beloved class clown.

But she’s also sad. Sad in a big way that can’t be easily solved, and it stays with her thru fun times, not-so-fun times and all the rest in-between. In the expressive, primary color-toned artwork, Subisak deftly reveals the source of Jenny’s sadness: a family member’s illness.

And just as Jenny’s sadness stays with her, so does her best friend—thru laughter, anger and tears. Jenny Mei Is Sad celebrates how being present in a friendship can have the power to support and comfort. And like all the best celebrations, this one end with a shared treat: popsicles!

Perfect for exploring the complexities of the emotion sadness, while also learning how to be a good friend, Jenny Mei Is Sad is actually a joy.
Profile Image for Becky B.
7,382 reviews94 followers
November 9, 2022
A little girl shares about how her friend Jenny Mei is sad and that her sadness takes different forms, but she tries to be a good friend through it all.

The illustrations in this hint that perhaps a family member is sick in Jenny Mei's household, but it isn't spelled out and there could be a whole host of reasons Jenny Mei is carrying a weight. The book shows that sadness isn't always visible and can make people act in a variety of ways, but being a good listener and there for your friend through it all is what is important. A beautiful book that would be a great resource to have in any classroom or counselor's office for those times when a child is going through something tough and friends need to learn how to be supportive and understanding.
Profile Image for Alissa Tsaparikos.
365 reviews2 followers
July 2, 2021
This story gently explores the story of a little girl who has a best friend who is "sad". The main character supports her friend, not by trying to fix things, but simply being present and listening. The sad is never elaborated on, giving this text the ability to cover a broad spectrum of issues. I like that the book doesn't present the sad as something that needs to be fixed, just accepting it for what it is. A worthy read to help children understand how to be a support for those in their own lives.
Profile Image for Jared White.
820 reviews17 followers
September 2, 2021
A great book about being a good friend "for fun and not-fun and everything in between." I think this would be a wonderful book to read with a little one who has a friend who is going through something tough. The author/illustrator did a wonderful job of keeping things just a bit vague so it can be applied to many situations. For instance, at least for me, I couldn't tell if the parents were having relationship problems or if the mother is sick or was that her grandmother at the end and she was upset because she lives with the grandmother and her parents aren't really in the picture?
Profile Image for Mary.
1,253 reviews10 followers
November 30, 2021
This sensitive story is told by Jenny Mei's friend. We learn that even though Jenny Mei is sad, sometimes it is hard to tell because she seems fine, funny, and happy. But there are other days when things don't go so well. Then Jenny Mei's teacher is a good listener, and a her friend knows what what she needs--someone to depend on.
The book presents great discussion possibilities regarding the nature of friendship, and the nature of sadness.
Simple text and spare illustrations match the mood and the message of this well executed book.
Profile Image for Natalie.
850 reviews
November 14, 2022
Jenny Mei is sad, but it isn't always easy to tell that she is. She is often normal most of the time, until she isn't. She talks to a teacher at school and she has her friend who listens to her, shares popsicles with her, and still plays with her even when she's sad. Her friend is just there through the good and the bad.

This is a great book for kids to learn how to support a friend who for one reason or another is sad. We don't know the reason why Jenny is sad, but it might be because someone at home is sick (not mentioned but in the illustration).
Profile Image for Molly.
2,406 reviews
August 16, 2021
Oh, Jenny Mei- you and me both! This is such a sweet read. Kids can be sad, but still smile; they can be fun, but also do mean things. They need to be listened to, and they need someone to just stick around. "For fun and not-fun and everything in between." A great book for teaching empathy and friendship; would also recommend for kids with friends going through tough times, or for kids going through difficult home situations, themselves.
Profile Image for Molly Cluff (Library!).
2,351 reviews30 followers
August 26, 2021
This was so sweet and a subject I don't see explored very much. The narrator is friends with Jenny Mei, who is going through a hard time (it seems like one of her parents has cancer or a serious illness). The story goes through their day together with sparse text, illustrating various ways how the narrator is there for Jenny. My heart felt so warm and cozy after--I'm glad Jenny has a friend who is looking out for her.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 77 reviews

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