Jabari is every child who has made a frighteningly ambitious goal. Jabari will leap off the high dive, definitely, at some point. He prepared for this moment by taking swim lessons and passing his swim test. While it looks easy from afar, it takes guts to face the big moment and Jabari casually puts the task off until he is ready. He stretches, he observes successful jumpers, and he even makes a test run up (and back down) the ladder. Dad recognizes Jabari’s need to do things in his own time and gently provides the support required for Jabari to summon the courage to make a big leap.
The quiet pleasure of father, son, and sister in each other’s company shows how families enjoy the slow time together between big events. Not every day is the day to take a leap–the moments of support and preparation leading up to that point are equally important. Reframing fear and anxiety into surprise is also a smart parenting move and a powerful takeaway.
Cornwall’s third person illustrations help the reader get the lay of the land, but when the perspective changes to Jabari’s, everyone feels his anxiety. That rope to the shallow end looks far and the pool deck looks close enough to land on. When Jabari does finally hit the water, it’s with one roller-coaster hand in the air and the other securing his nose. Both risk taking and caution maneuvers are in effect. Splash! Landscapes made from collaged text that includes words such as, “swimming,” “skilled,” “trying,” “farther,” and “distance” also heighten reader emotions.
Jabari’s baby-wearing dad provides a welcome addition to children’s literature. Furthermore, Jabari and his family are African American and the cast of characters at the pool reflect the diversity seen in most communities, but not as frequently represented in picturebooks. Every child should be able to place themselves in this story. Jabari Jumps is a perfect gift for fathers and also for anyone facing a daunting goal.