Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, 2017
(Ages 4 –8)
Jabari has just finished his swim lessons and is now ready to tackle the high dive at his local pool. Jabari appears confident, but hesitates when it is his turn to climb onto the diving board. First, he needs to rest, then he needs to stretch, then he decides that maybe tomorrow is a better day for jumping. His dad pulls him aside for some sound advice. “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 feeling scary and feels a little like a surprise.” With his father’s encouragement, Jabari pushes his fear aside and takes the plunge ready for a “surprise double back-flip” as his next jump.
My four-year-old son loved this book and asked for multiple readings. When we went to the pool for the first time this summer, he felt a little bit nervous about going in the water. He took swimming lessons last year, but had not been in a pool in several months and was now feeling hesitant about trying to swim again. We had just read this book and I referenced Jabari’s dad’s advice about it being okay to be scared, but that he should try to take a deep breath and see if he feels surprised when he enters the water. He jumped in and was swimming like a fish in no time.
This is the perfect story to help anyone face a fear or just to enjoy a well-told tale about an important moment in a child’s life. I love the relationship between Jabari and his caring father who perfectly nurtures him through this scary situation. Jabari’s father and sister are visible in almost every scene making the reader feel their support during this exciting time for Jabari.
In addition to the sweet story, the illustrations are also magnificent. I loved the muted color scheme that made the aqua hue of the water look so inviting. Cornwall intermixed text into the illustrations adding to the beauty. My favorite page was when Jabari is standing on top of the diving board. The illustration is from Jabari’s point of view looking down at his toes curled around the end of the board and his father and sister down below. It perfectly captures his excitement and fear at that moment in time.