Review: Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

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Jabari looked out, as far as he could see.

He felt like he was ready.

“I love surprises,” he whispered.

 

 

 

What happens: Jabari heads to the pool for a fun day with his dad and his sister. He’s determined to make today the day that he finally jumps from the diving board. But it’s high…really high. With a lot of family support and a dash of courage, Jabari discovers that new experiences don’t have to be scary–as long as you let life surprise you.

The good: I love this book. Not because it’s a great book for storytime. Just because it’s a great book, full stop. That’s not something you always get with picture books. Let’s talk first about the plot and the central message of the book: Jobari is like a lot of kids his age. He wants to do the fun things that the other kids do but he’s also a little bit scared to do something new. Jabari’s dad knows that and he plays an awesome supporting role here. Seriously, he’s an awesome dad. When Jabari wants to jump off the diving board, his dad lets him try. When Jabari is nervous and can’t quite bring himself to follow through on his big talk, his dad makes space for him to step back and reevaluate without forcing Jabari to do something he isn’t ready for. Jabari’s dad gives him support and allows for independent decision making. Can he teach a parenting class, please? Jabari ends up jumping off the diving board and having a blast while doing it. The general message of the book is that new things can be scary but they can also be really fun.

I loved that the message of the book was bravery and featured a male character but that Jabari was allowed to be scared without being called weak or lacking by his male peers. There’s not one single once of toxic masculinity here. I also LOVE that Jabari’s dad’s character is so warm and supportive. He was a great dad. We do not see nearly enough examples of exceptional Black fatherhood in our culture (not because there aren’t great black dads but because their narrative is eclipsed by the “super predator” BS that we have of Black men).

One other small thing that I noticed and appreciated–this is a Black family with varying skin tones! That’s right, not all Black people are the same brown crayon color. Jabari, his dad, and his sister are all different tones and even the other brown kids who only get a cameo are different shades. Just awesome!

The not so good: The only thing that’s not great about this book is that it’s the only one of its caliber that stands out in my head. I look forward to seeing more titles like this as we continue to work hard to make kidlit more diverse.

Rating: 5/5 stars!

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