Jabari Jumps is written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall. The book is about a young African American boy, Jabari, who has just passed his swimming lessons and is ready to tackle the next big hurdle: the diving board. He comes to his dad confidently that he will jump off of the diving board today.
When Jabari, his baby sister, and his dad arrive at the pool, however, he is taken aback. He tries to sum up his courage to jump off the board. While standing in line, he also lets his peers go in front of him as thinks about how he will make his grand jump off of the board. After beginning to climb the ladder, he remembers he forgot to do his stretches and goes back down to do them. At the end of the day, Jabari is unable to jump off the board. His dad, very supportingly, assures him that he can do it tomorrow.
His dad continues by saying that Jabari should take a deep breath and take the challenge as a surprise rather than feeling scared. This intrigues Jabari as he loves surprises. Without another thought, Jabari begins his journey up the ladder, across the board and stands on the edge overlooking the pool. The illustrations especially during this point of the book really help the reader feel what Jabari is feeling and the anxious feeling right before you jump off a diving board is instilled in the reader. The picture below does a great job at showing perspective, and as a reader, I start feeling a little scared as well. The illustrations are vital in building suspense even though you aren’t actually experience Jabari’s jump.
Eventually Jabari overcomes his fear and immediately falls in love with the jump and goes back to do it again. Overall, I think this book does a really good job about telling children that it’s okay to be scared and that overcoming fears isn’t too hard after all. I particularly enjoyed the style of writing accompanied with the illustrations. It kept the reader on their toes on the pages that only had one or two sentences and an illustration that gave a really good perspective of what was happening. I also really appreciated that the main characters of the story were African American. It shows that the diversity in children’s picture books is increasing. I would definitely read this book to kids!