Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Review - David Jumps In

David Jumps In
by Alan Woo
illustrated by Katty Maurey
Date: 2020
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

This lyrical tale, written in simple free verse, tells how a game with roots in ancient China --- called elastic skip in this story --- helps a boy find his footing on his first day at a new school.

It is David's first day at his brand-new school. He doesn't know anyone. At recess, he stands alone and watches the other children enjoying their activities on the playground, from practicing soccer moves and climbing monkey bars to playing hopscotch and daydreaming in the grass. Bundled deep inside David's pocket is a string of rubber bands, knotted and ready for a game of elastic skip. But will anyone want to try that game? he wonders. Will anyone want to play with him?

With simple, lyrical free verse, Alan Woo echoes the singsong of schoolyard games to draw readers into the deeper levels of this lovely and poignant picture book story. Exploring the themes of friendship, diversity, belonging and inclusion, the book also celebrates David's self-acceptance and comfort with his own unique identity. With roots in ancient China, David's jump-rope game --- called elastic skip in the story, but known by many different names --- is a symbol for multicultural connections, linking David and his new schoolmates through the sharing of his background. Katty Maurey's colorful screen print-style illustrations evoke the seemingly endless space, energy, brightness and noise of recess. And through changing perspective, readers see David's evolution from a small figure lost in the crowd to a larger, central one at the story's close. This book would make an excellent choice for social studies discussions on community or cultures. It also could launch discussions on courage or individuality.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Aside from adding a bit of nostalgia to my day, this book didn't really do much for me. The premise is okay, but the illustrations--while done with an interesting technique--aren't that engaging and the writing is just plain annoying. "Free verse" is one thing... but the text in this just looks like it couldn't be bothered to use proper grammar and punctuation:

When the recess bell rang,
The kids raced into sunshine,
Clamoring for first place
At the swings, slides
And monkey bars.

Trying to turn this into a free-verse picture book was unnecessary; the text would've been fine written as straight prose.

The game the kids play in this book brought back memories. We called it Chinese jumprope, and the huge elastic was part of our playground arsenal (along with regular jumpropes, marbles, and paper fortune tellers). I don't know if kids today still play "elastic skip" (as it's called in the book), but parents who were children a few decades ago will likely get a kick out of seeing one of their beloved childhood games depicted here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 2.83 out of 5

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