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Jabari Jumps Hardcover – May 9, 2017
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From the Publisher
'Cornwall captures the exquisite tingle of Jabari’s fear and excitement, which gives the book its drama. The visual details - the way the little sister’s tiny hand grips her father’s back while her father holds her brother’s hand - give the book its heart.'
—The New York Times Book Review
From School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—An African American boy and his baby sister and father head to an urban community pool. Jabari has completed his swim lessons and tests and is ready to jump off a diving board. In his zigzag swim trunks and swim goggles, the boy tells his dad that diving looks easy. But when he stands at the ladder and looks up, up, and up at the diving board, he starts stalling for time, saying that he has other things to do before he can make the big leap. His father reassures him that it is OK to be scared, encourages him to take deep breaths, and tells him that he might just be surprised. With renewed determination, Jabari climbs the ladder and jumps into the pool. He's flying and splashing and sinking down and swimming back up and he's done it! Jabari is a great jumper. Just enough conversational text accompanies each illustration, including several smaller vignettes on a single page that help build suspense. Mixed-media images in serene muted colors, high-rise buildings above the tree line, and the intriguing addition of faded newsprint accents strengthen the urban feel of the illustrations. VERDICT Jabari's story will help assuage the fears kids experience when faced with a new and daunting adventure. A terrific seasonal storytime read-aloud that's perfect for one-on-one sharing.—Mindy Hiatt, Salt Lake County Library Services
Cornwall captures the exquisite tingle of Jabari’s fear and excitement, which gives the book its drama. The visual details — the way the little sister’s tiny hand grips her father’s back while her father holds her brother’s hand — give the book its heart.
—The New York Times Book Review
There are plenty of picture books reassuring kids who don’t quite achieve their own goals when they want to (see, for example, Ashley Spires’s The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do, BCCB 4/17), but here Cornwall celebrates success earned through overcoming fears and through reliance on the supportive presence of a loving parent...Pool season is right around the corner, and this funny and joyful outing will put everyone in the mood for a dip.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
Mixed-media images in serene muted colors, high-rise buildings above the tree line, and the intriguing addition of faded newsprint accents strengthen the urban feel of the illustrations. Jabari’s story will help assuage the fears kids experience when faced with a new and daunting adventure. A terrific seasonal storytime read-aloud that’s perfect for one-on-one sharing.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers...This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.
The dialogue and text are straightforward and make a nice pairing with the creatively chosen angles for the illustrations...a welcome piece for any summertime collection.
A daunting gaze downward, past Jabari’s toes that curl around the edge of the board, makes the water look incredibly far away, and when seen from behind, he seems as high up as the skyscrapers in the distance. It’s a lovely, knowing account of a big “first” in a child’s life.
Against a backdrop of warm brown skin tones and cool aqua water, debut author-illustrator Cornwell presents an empowering and celebratory story. Young readers will root for Jabari as he prepares to take a leap of faith.
—The Horn Book
Anyone who has hesitated on the brink of something daunting—a brave act or a big decision—will feel a rush of kinship with the small protagonist of Gaia Cornwall’s picture book “Jabari Jumps”.
—The Wall Street Journal
It’s a summertime rite of passage: jumping off the diving board for the first time. In Jabari Jumps (Candlewick, ages 4-8) Gaia Cornwall brings to vivid life this moment for one little boy…For young listeners, this lovely book is a reminder that the best summers have both challenging surprises and fun.
—The Washington Post
A little boy has finished his swimming lessons and is trying to get up the courage to jump off the diving board in this utterly charming debut picture book with a valuable lesson about conquering your fears from a gifted author-illustrator
For a little lightheartedness “Jabari Jumps” (Candlewick, 2017; 15.99) is just the ticket. Gaia Cornwall wrote and illustrated this charming story of Jabari who goes to the swimming pool with his father and younger sister and promises that this is the day he will jump off the diving board...Young readers will want to hear or Jabari’s challenge again and again.
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In her debut picture book, author-illustrator Gaia Cornwall gives us an African American child doing something sure to resonate with any young reader: getting nervous about tackling a new skill. “I’m jumping off the diving board today,” the goggle-wearing boy tells his dad, “I’m not scared at all.” Jabari watches the other kids climb the long ladder and says it looks easy. “But when his dad squeezed his hand, Jabari squeezed back.” As Jabari repeatedly tries to summon the courage to take the plunge, his father checks in. “Maybe you should climb down and take a tiny rest,” he offers, “it’s okay to feel a little scared.”
As all this unfolds, young readers will delight in fun sound effects (“Splash!”), just the right amount of repetition (“Down, down, down he went”), and illustrations somehow brimming with both realism and whimsy. The dedication and cover pages, for example, show Jabari changing into his swimsuit in precisely the way anyone his age would: he gets his head stuck in his shirt, sits down to remove his socks, and must mix a little pretending to be a penguin into the process. Side stories sprinkled throughout, like the kid chasing a bug or the one grimacing as sunblock is applied, are also sure to capture little imaginations.
For adults, there’s more. Near the end, for example, Jabari’s dad shouts, “You did it!” rather than “Good job!”—reflecting the very latest in social science research on parenting (we are to encourage, the experts say, not praise). The pictures have a high-art feel with soothing yet vibrant colors and inventive patterns, such as the buildings constructed in newsprint and the bathing suit worn by Jabari’s little sister that changes with each turn of the page. And Cornwall’s use of perspective? Oh my. We see Jabari looking out at the world from the tip of the diving board on one breathtaking spread, and on another page he gazes straight down at the tops of people’s heads and his own toes “curled around the rough edge.”
To have a story set at a public swimming pool about a black boy, as well as a father and sister who sport slightly different skin tones, shows Cornwall’s awareness of her book’s place in the ongoing civil rights movement. At the same time, the story isn’t about race. Jabari is just a little boy contemplating a big leap, who happens to have brown skin.
Just in time for summer, Jabari, his dad, and Cornwall are ready to splash their way into readers’ hearts—and our notion of how a family looks and acts.
I chose this particular book, and not the similarly themed book Courage by Bernard Waber, in response to the New York Times piece entitled Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? In that 2014 article the African-American poet Walter Dean Myers makes the astonishing point that of the 3,200 children’s books published in 2013 just 93 featured black characters--less than three percent.
During my search for the perfect read aloud (beautifully illustrated, just the right length and addressing nurturing, roots, courage) I found several books about white children. I wondered the race of the protagonist really matters. I was tempted to “not worry about it.” Then I’d remember Myers’ writing. I was thrilled to share a beautiful book about bravery, perseverance and a father's gentle support with my students.
Thank you Gaia Cornwall for this contribution to children's literature!