Jabari Jumps

Written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
32 pages  •  Published 2020 (Candlewick Press)
Book cover
Recommended Age Range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Publisher's Summary: Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board. He’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. “Looks easy,” says Jabari, watching the other kids take their turns. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. 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 a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, newcomer Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.
Book cover

Dr. Annie's Takeaways

Recommended for: Any child who ever feels nervous before taking a plunge–literal or figurative–(i.e., almost everyone) will really like this story. It’s best for a child who has had experience at a swimming pool with a diving board so they can relate to Jabari. This story could be used to start a conversation about facing one’s fears, and it provides a few concrete strategies for doing so (deep breaths, cognitive restructuring , jumping in). Therapists might find it useful as a way to start conversations about exposure therapy .
Would a child like it? Yes. It’s a sweet story that gives children permission to be excited and nervous at the same time.
Tone: Sweet, comforting
Story Quality: Jabari Jumps is a small, intimate story about conquering a big fear. Jabari is excited about jumping off the diving board for the first time, but the reader sees him stalling because he’s also quite nervous about it. With his father’s support, he’s able to reframe his nerves as anticipating a surprise and to work up the courage to jump off! The book is kind and non-judgmental about Jabari’s fears, and it models a sweet, supportive relationship between father and son that refreshingly doesn’t have a whiff of “toughen up” energy.
Illustrations: Pretty pastel-colored illustrations that have a bit of a retro feel to them.
Representation: Jabari and his family are Black. Jabari is a boy; he has a father and a baby sister. This story takes place at a swimming pool being enjoyed by diverse kids and their families.
Psychological Practices: This story normalizes and destigmatizes being afraid of doing something new like diving off a diving board. Jabai doesn’t want to admit that he’s scared, but he procrastinates jumping by making sure he has stretched, thought about what jump he wants to do, and taken a “tiny rest.” Jabari’s father doesn’t push him to jump off the diving board before he’s ready, but he shares this wisdom with Jabari: “Sometimes, if I feel a little scared, I take a deep breath and tell myself I am ready. And you know what? Sometimes it stops feeling scary and feels a little like a surprise.” Jabari follows his dad’s advice and is able to jump off the diving board, followed by celebration from his dad and baby sister as well as a sense of pride in himself.
Concerns: None.

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