About the Holiday
Originally established to celebrate the pro-labor Broadway play Pins and Needles that opened in 1937 on this date, today’s holiday has come to commemorate that pins-and-needles nervous or excited feeling that certain events cause. That electric anticipation is especially experienced at this time of year and is often the lead-in to momentous achievements—as today’s book shows!
By Gaia Cornwall
Today was the day! Jabari was going to jump off the diving board at the local swimming pool. Sure, the board “was high and maybe a little scary,” but Jabari had taken swimming lessons and passed his test, and he was ready. “‘I’m a great jumper,’ said Jabari, ‘so I’m not scared at all.’” As he and his dad approached the pool, Jabari watched other kids springing into the air from the diving board and plunging into the water below.
“‘Looks easy,’ Jabari said. But when his dad squeezed his hand, Jabari squeezed back.” Jabari stopped at the base of the ladder and looked up, up, up. He let the other kids in line go ahead of him while he thought about “what kind of special jump” he was going to do. Pretty soon he was the only one left at the ladder.
Jabari climbed up rung after rung. Part way up, he realized just how tall the ladder really was. When his dad asked him if he was all right, Jabari told him he was a little tired. His dad suggested “a tiny rest.” Jabari backed down, and when he got to the ground, he decided he needed to stretch. After loosening up, he and his dad looked at the diving board again. “‘I think tomorrow might be a better day for jumping,’ Jabari said.”
Jabari’s dad knelt down and told his son that he felt scared too sometimes. When that happened, he said, he would take a deep breath and tell himself he was ready. Sometimes he realized he actually was, and it felt “‘a little like a surprise.’” That sounded good to Jabari because he liked surprises. He breathed deeply and began his climb. At the top, he walked to the end of the diving board, grabbed the edge with his toes, and looked down. Then he looked out at the horizon. “He felt like he was ready. ‘I love surprises,’ he whispered.”
He bounced into the air and as the others below waited for him, he jumped. “Jabari hit the water with a SPLASH!” He floated down and then sprang back up. “‘You did it!’” his dad celebrated. “‘I did it!’ said Jabari. ‘I’m a great jumper!’” He ran to the ladder and climbed up for his next dive: a “surprise double backflip.”
Often in life taking big leaps can be scary—for adults as well as kids. Gaia Cornwall’s jubilant story of a little boy working up the courage to try the unknown of the diving board offers both support and comfort. Knowing that his son has it in him to accomplish his goal, Jabari’s dad provides not only the gentle nudge he needs but also the permission to decide on his own when the time is right. Cornwall’s straightforward telling sprinkled with good advice will resonate with children and is applicable for many new experiences.
Cornwall’s watercolor, pencil, and collage illustrations abound in the excitement of a day out with Dad. The loving relationship of the family is evident in their smiles, the way the father squeezes Jabari’s hand and bends down to offer encouragement, and the joyful celebration of both Dad and Jabari’s younger sister after Jabari’s jump. The diverse group of swimmers at the pool play, laugh, and talk together, giving readers much to enjoy on each detailed page. Cornwall’s beautiful palette of blues and greens accented by structures rendered from printed pages of text, highlights the buoyancy of the story.
Jabari Jumps is a wonderful story to add to any child’s or classroom bookshelf for those times when a little more encouragement is needed.
Ages 4 – 8
Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763678388
Discover more about Gaia Cornwall and her work as well as activity sheets on her website
Jump into this Jabari Jumps book trailer!
Pins and Needles Day Activity
When you feel nervous or on pins and needles, this easy-to-make kinetic sand can help you relax as the sand slips through your fingers.
- 1 cup of play sand
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon dish soap
- About ¾ cup of Water or as needed
- Bin or larger bowl
- Small bowl
- The amount of water you use will depend on the consistency of the sand
- In a bin or bowl, combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
- In the small bowl combine the dish soap and water and stir until the water is bubbly
- Slowly pour some of the water/dish soap mixture into the sand/cornstarch mixture and mix well.
- Continue mixing, adding a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached
Picture Book Review