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Review of Jabari Jumps

Jabari Jumps
by Gaia Cornwall; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.
5/17    978-0-7636-7838-8    $15.99    g

Jabari is a spirited little boy with a pretty big mission: after finishing his swimming lessons and passing his test, he’s ready to jump off the diving board at the community pool! Before he jumps, however, Jabari decides it would be kind if he let all the children behind him in line jump first. And it would be important to stop and plan his special jump. And prudent to stretch. Finally, Jabari admits that he might be a little…scared. Luckily, our young hero has a support system: loving encouragement from his father and baby sister (who never says a word, but smiles reassuringly). His dad helps Jabari get ready to take the plunge: “It’s okay to feel a little scared…Sometimes if I feel a little scared, I take a deep breath and tell myself I am ready. And you know what? Sometimes it stops being scary and feels a little like a surprise.” The natural-sounding dialogue between Jabari and his gentle, observant father is paired with watercolor and collage illustrations that perfectly depict a hazy summer day. The varied perspectives bring readers into Jabari’s journey, from our view of his toes curled around the edge of the diving board to his view of the city. (Dad is present in each scene). Against a backdrop of warm brown skin tones and cool aqua water, debut author-illustrator Cornwall presents an empowering and celebratory story. Young readers will root for Jabari as he prepares to take a leap of faith.

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Eboni Njoku

Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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