Jabari Jumps (Gaia Cornwall)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, a sweet and simple story with an important lesson on overcoming fears.

Jabari has come to a decision: he is ready to go off the high diving board like the other kids. His father asks if he’s sure, and Jabari thinks he is: he’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swimming test. Still, when he sees how high the board is, he begins to get nervous. He allows the other children to go first. Then he has trouble climbing the ladder, so he takes a tiny break. He realizes that he forgot to stretch (can’t dive without stretching). In fact, there are a lot of little things standing in the way of his big jump. But his daddy takes him aside and gives him some advice: it’s okay to be scared to try new things. Sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath, tell yourself you’re ready… and jump.

This book is a wonderful example of how a classic concept or lesson can be made stunning by the right hand. Facing one’s fears and challenges is a timeless lesson for little ones, and the story conveys it in an honest and guileless way that young readers will appreciate. From there, it’s the choices and details that give the book a quiet radiance: earnest, energetic illustrations with some wonderful details (the subtle use of newsprint as concrete was very nice), a humorous final page, down to the much-appreciated choice to making the main characters a black family – there are extremely few swimming books that include people of color. The length is great, and JJ and I both really enjoyed it. A wonderful story of being brave, and the people who encourage us to be. Baby Bookworm approved!

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