Jam Sessions by Jerry Harwood

Published March 22, 2020 by Gerald Harwood

About the Book: Meet Phillip. His mom relocates him to a new school in the middle of the school year.
Things do not go well. Phillip lands himself a trip to the dean of student’s office when he tries to forge his mother’s signature. Maybe if he spelled her name correctly it would have gone better.  
Phillip also finds himself having more and more anxiety. And the song some bullies are singing is certainly not helping:

Phillip Willip, Puddin and Pie. 
Got a bad grade and made him cry.  

There is one class Phillip has that is going well. It is with Mr. Filter, who starts each day with a writing prompt. These “jam sessions” allow students to be creative and enjoy writing. Phillip writes about being a basketball on a soccer field. Another day he writes about receiving two dragon eggs in the mail, one for himself and one for a particularly cute girl.  
But will Phillip ever be able to make his real life go as well as his Jam Sessions?

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jam Sessions is the story of Phillip, a middle school boy who is dealing with many changes in his life. He and his mother have left his abusive father and are starting a new life in a town close to his mother’s parents. He is also beginning a new school midway through the year. Phillip has anxiety that is exacerbated by some bullies in his grade. He perseveres and tries to ignore them as best he can, but has a couple of panic attacks where he passes out. His favourite teacher, Mr. Filter, had the students using writing prompts to be creative and express themselves. These “Jam Sessions” help Phillip to find his way in his new school.

Jerry Harwood has created a story with a cast of characters that are real and relatable. Chuck and his friends are easily identified as bullies and are unlikable, while Ashley, Daniel and Jaylan had me wishing I had friends like them when I went to school. Not all of the teachers were likable characters but some, like Mr. Filter and the Coach were what I would hope all teachers would be like. Phillip’s mom was busy working, but I loved the relationship he had with his grandparents, especially his grandpa. He gave him another outlet for his creativity and showed him unconditional love. This was how wonderfully developed the characters were in this relatively short book.

Jerry Harwood does a great job describing what a panic attack feels like. I have never had one, but I could feel Phillip’s anxiety and wanted to reach out and help him calm himself. I liked how this book demonstrates different ways to deal with them as there is not a one size fits all solution for panic and anxiety. My grandson has a lot of anxiety, but has not had panic attacks at this time. I will get a copy of this book to read with him to be proactive. I enjoyed Jerry Harwood’s writing. It was detailed, well-plotted and the story flowed well. I liked the short chapters and they work well in an MG book.

There were not a lot of illustrations, but those that were there were set at the beginning of several chapters to give an idea of what is about to happen and the pen and ink sketches fit the story perfectly. The ending was wonderful and left this reader with hopeful feelings and happy thoughts. I would happily read other books by Jerry Harwood and hope that he writes another book about Phillip and his new friends. I recommend this book to public and school libraries as well as to families where children have anxiety.

Book links:


“Wow! You really SHOWED her! That’s awesome, Phillip. We hate Tina. She is such a prude.”

Robert added from the bus seat behind them, “Remember when we tied her gym shoes together and threw them up onto the basketball goal? She got us a detention for that. She deserved it, Phillip!”

Phillip didn’t feel like he “showed” anyone anything. And he certainly didn’t feel like Tina deserved to have her earring ripped out, even if she was reading his journal. But Chuck seemed to think it was the best thing that had ever happened at Cloverfield Middle School.

“Yeah,” Phillip added, “but I have ISS tomorrow. And it is in the afternoon, so I still have to get that math test signed. My mom is going to be so mad after this.”

“Let me see that test,” Chuck interjected.

Phillip hesitantly pulled it out of the front pocket of his trapper keeper. There again was the massive red “35%” on top of the page.

“What is your mom’s name?” Chuck asked.

It was a weird question. “Rhodman, just like mine.”

“No dude, like her FIRST name.”

“Janice, but…”

Chuck suddenly produced a pen from seemingly nowhere. Before Phillip could protest, Chuck wrote in big letters:

Janeese Rodman

“There you go, Phillip. Problem solved!” Chuck handed the paper back with the name written boldly right below the “35%.”

“What did you do?” Phillip said louder than he meant to. “That isn’t even how you spell it!”

“Mrs. Murray will never know. You are good. Now you don’t have to tell your mom. Seriously, I did you a favor. Be grateful.”

About the Author: Jerry Harwood was born in Ooltewah, TN. His mother was an elementary school teacher and he spent his afternoons reading books in her classroom or the nearby library. He has experimented with other occupations: camp director, program director at a counseling center, college professor and middle school teacher. Jerry has backpacked Europe, taught in a Ukrainian University, worked in Rwanda after the genocide, is a first responder, sort-of remodeled a VW Thing, and has a love for Cherry Coke Zero that is only surpassed by his love for his wife, six children, and grandson.  

Jerry attended college at UT Chattanooga where he was in university honors and majored in Latin and classical literature.  He has two master’s degrees, nearing completion on a third.  He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where  he is an active member of the Chattanooga Writer’s Guild, the Atlanta Writer’s Club, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Feel free to share your thoughts on the book with Jerry at JerryHarwoodBooks@gmail.com or visit his website at www.jerryharwood.com

Author social media: WebsiteAmazon Author PageBlogGoodreads – Email: JerryHarwoodBooks@gmail.com