A Spoonful of Jam

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

Cover of A Spoonful of Jam

Author: Michelle Magorian

Series: Hollis Family

Publisher: Mammoth

Published in: 1998

Age Range: Pre Teens+

Period: Mid 20th C

Setting: Winford, Herts

Genres:  Growing-UpWar


  • Elsie Hollis is the 12-year-old daughter of a poor family who goes by scholarship to the Grammar School but is picked on by the kids in the next street. She decides to try out as an actor to stay out of the way.


Elsie Hollis is terrified of the gang in the next street, and auditions for a part with the local repertory company simply to stay out of the way; she is astonished when she is actually given the part. This leads to a summer of hard work and new friendships, within the company and outside. In addition Elsie is unhappy with the attention given to her Mum's forthcoming baby and is desperate for her Dad, recently demobbed, to recognise her to be worth as much as a boy.


Literary: Another instalment in the Hollis Family saga. The story sags a little in comparison to Cuckoo in the Nest, partly because the author takes the characters for granted and so spends less time giving examples of their character. In addition, the relationships which Ralph has to balance in the earlier book are less present in Elsie's world.

Nonetheless the viewpoint of 12-year-old Elsie provides an interesting perspective: her struggles to survive at school with several disadvantages, her entry into the theatre world at first in desperation and later as her natural element, and her efforts to do the best thing for her family and especially for her Dad, all come across clear and fresh.

Family: Elsie's relationship with her family is different from Ralph's but none the less complicated. She relies on her mother's sister to provide money for her school books and uniform but finds herself unable to do well because of the poor conditions at home. Her Dad, taciturn after his experiences in the war, seems unable to praise her, although it's clear enough that he wants the best for her, and Elsie thinks it's because she's not a boy. Finally, her mother's pregnancy and her cousin's young child leave Elsie weary of the subject of babies

Sunday 14th September 2003