Books

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Jabari Jumps’ by Gaia Cornwall

c.2017, Candlewick Press
$15.99 ($22 Canada)
32 pages

You can do it.

Yes, you can. You just need to take a deep breath and then blow it out. Find the courage inside yourself. Think of something else and do it. Don’t be scared. As you’ll see in “Jabari Jumps” by Gaia Cornwall, good things come to those who get brave and take the leap.

Jabari loved to swim.

He was really good at it, too. He’d gone to all his swimming lessons and he passed every test. He was so good at swimming that he was ready to jump off the diving board. He even told his dad about it.

The diving board was “high and maybe a little scary…” There were a lot of rungs to climb to get to the top — Jabari could tell that from the side of the pool. Other kids on top of the diving board looked tiny from below as they sprang up and splashed down into the water. It was a long, long way to dive, but Jabari thought it looked like fun — and besides, he was a “great jumper.”

As he stood by the ladder, he looked up. Way up.

Then he turned around and looked at the other kids in line. They’d been standing there awhile; maybe they should go first. In fact, maybe a “tiny rest” was a good idea before tackling such a huge thing. And oh, Jabari forgot to do his stretches before swimming — that’s very important. Maybe tomorrow would be better for diving off the board.

But then Daddy said something that Jabari never thought about. Daddy knew exactly what Jabari was thinking, and he had some helpful advice. There were many ways to dive off a board and into a pool. You can jump feet-first or with your arms above your head, backwards or forwards, straight or flipping head over feet, but there was only one way to get to the top to do it.

And so Jabari did …

More than three out of five Americans don’t know how to swim. In the African-American community, that number is considerably higher. “Jabari Jumps” may help fix that.

It’s OK to love swimming, according to author Gaia Cornwall’s energetic little main character. It’s OK to get all wet and take swim lessons. It’s actually fun, and Cornwall’s illustrations make it seem so.

But, as your child will see, it’s also OK to be scared of doing something you’ve never done before. In this, Cornwall makes it clear to even the smallest youngster that Jabari’s faux-bravery is wavering even as he brags about his big plans in the pool. There’s plenty of reassurance here, though; Jabari’s father is a great supporting character, understanding and calm with no belittling.

In the end, well, I’m sure you know where this book goes. Kids might, too, and it’s a joyous finale that will leave young readers with a smile and maybe an urge to learn to swim. If that’s what you want to foster in your child, then give him “Jabari Jumps.” Do it.

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