Author/Illustrator: Gaia Cornwall
Age Group: 3-6
Synopsis: A young boy passes his swim test and feels that he can now jump off the high dive, that’s when his confidence flags.
The Low Down:
I saw this book earlier this year but didn’t have a chance to look through it as I’d already spent enough time in the book store to drive my husband a bit batty. But I kept thinking about it. And so when it popped up at our local library I grabbed it like a 90’s mom after a Tickle-Me Elmo. It did not disappoint and Bug loved it, although he refers to it as the “little boy jumping book.” Gaia Cornwall creates an instantly relateable experience here, keying into the excitement that borders on fear that children can often feel and tapping into a nostalgic memory of parents’ first time going off the diving board.
Jabari is quickly introduced in this story, as he, his father, and little sister head to the local pool. Jabari tells his father that he’s going jump off the diving board since he’s now passed his swim test. But when Jabari gets to the bottom of the ladder he’s hesitant to go up. Even after he begins climbing the ladder he decides that he needs a little rest and to stretch first. His father is a testament of encouragement. He never pushes too hard, just gives him the perfect amount of support needed to reach his goal on his own. And in the end, when his father likens doing something scary to being given a surprise Jabari takes that final leap. Cornwall stretches out the big jump into an excitement filled ride. And Jabari, true to form, insists a double backflip is next.
The collage type of illustrations that Cornwall uses throughout the book really pop, giving it a unique depth and crispness. She’s gone with the popular way of using old text as part of the collage as well, something I’m always a fan of. Jabari, himself is the epitome of little kid excitement. Between his enthusiasm, quiet worry, and determination his expressions are absolutely perfect. The pages illustrating the jump are fantastic. Starting with a perspective page, showing just Jabari’s toes and all the small people in the water below, it then is followed by a page of the actual jump and Jabari looking like a happy bird making the first leap of flight. But my favorite is the when Jabari enters the water, his now scrunched up and his eyes squeezed tight. Through these all Cornwall perfectly depicts a child’s reactions in a warm and beautiful way.
With a fabulous combination of story and illustration, Cornwall hits a home run with this book. She not only encourages bravery, enthusiasm, acceptance, and patience but also the very act of swimming, which is such an important skill for kids to learn but may sometimes be intimidating. What really hit home though was the amazing way Jabari’s father speaks and encourages him. It was such an amazing example of positive support that we all can use sometimes, whether we’re jumping from a diving board or making a metaphorical jump in life.
- Look out for Jabari’s father and sister down in the water.
I need more!
Jabari Jumps is Cornwall’s first book but keep an eye out for more via her website: http://www.gaiacornwall.com/
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