Walker Books: 2020
Reviewed by Viv Young
Jabari is building a plane. When he experiences some setbacks, Dad encourages Jabari to take on a junior partner.
Jabari Tries is a heart-warming tale about managing frustration with help and through collaboration. Like many books that tackle frustration it describes what the emotion feels like, provides some tips for managing strong emotions (take a break and breathe away the ‘muddy feelings’), and portrays typical acts of frustration in the illustrations. Its great point of difference, however, is the beautiful sibling relationship it presents which encourages readers to consider how we can share both the difficulties and the triumphs when we work cooperatively with others.
The relationship between Jabari and his little sister is touching and feels authentic. Nika is a young child who for the most part says ‘me’ to any question—she is on her own journey and Jabari’s act of inclusion benefits both himself and his sibling. The sibling sub-plot makes Jabari Tries an excellent choice for young kids who also have a tricky relationship with their baby sister or brother, but the portrayal of working co-operatively may well resonate with kids who don’t have this particular difficulty or who don’t have siblings.
All the action of invention and collaboration is placed by Gaia Cornwall in a backyard setting. The natural green backdrop provides a calming undertone to the scenes of experimentation and frustration. The occasional use of engineering plans in the design and especially on the page in which Jabari recalls key inventors for inspiration provides a contrast to the natural world. These ‘scientific’ motifs also highlight the real-world inventors Jabari recalls. These inventors, who represent both gender and cultural diversity, are named but not described, providing a potential cue to extend the reading process for young readers by doing a little research on ‘real” inventors.
Jabari Tries is a special book sure to appeal to budding scientists who need some help learning how to deal with setbacks and how to collaborate.