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Jabari Jumps

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In a sweet tale of overcoming your fears, debut author-illustrator Gaia Cornwall captures a moment at the swimming pool between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.

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. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swimming test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all.

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. Cornwall captures the exquisite tingle of Jabari’s fear and excitement, which gives the book its drama. 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. Jabari’s story will help assuage the fears kids experience when faced with a new and daunting adventure.

He needs to figure out what kind of special jump to do anyway, and he should probably do some stretches before climbing up onto the diving board. 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.

Finally, after words of encouragement from his patient father, Jabari makes the climb and braves the jump, a sequence viewed from various perspectives that amplify his accomplishment. 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. He's finished his swimming lessons and passed his swimming test, and he's a great jumper, so he's not scared at all. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all.

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