Jayla Jumps In

Albert Whitman. Sept. 2020. 208p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807560761.
Gr 4-7–Eleven-year-old Jayla lives in Washington, DC, and is an only child in an otherwise large African American family. Jayla wants some excitement in her life, and if her parents aren’t going to grant her wish of a sibling, Jayla thinks she needs to look elsewhere. Thanksgiving with Jayla’s relatives starts out boring, with annoying cousins including the older know-it-all Shontessa; but it takes a turn for the better when Jayla finds out her mother used to be a Double Dutch champion. Jayla is intrigued when Shontessa shows her YouTube videos of Double Dutch competitions, and she wonders if this is the answer she’s looking for. Jayla sets out first to get her mom and aunt to show her the sport, but her mom is always too busy working, and seems reluctant despite health advice that she needs to incorporate exercise and healthier eating into her life. Jayla manages to get the after-school coordinator Ms. McMillan to start a group, and sets out to recruit team members for a quickly approaching competition. Obstacles abound, including the difficulty of finding students interested or vaguely talented; and when the day of the competition comes, Ms. McMillan forgets about the tournament due to her birthday. Jayla’s soon-to-be aunt comes to the rescue, but the team is disqualified because Shontessa is too old to compete. Feeling discouraged, Jayla finds her family rallying around her and the sport, and before she knows it, she’s got people of all ages, shapes and sizes jumping and reminiscing about their youth. Jayla’s mom has started to make changes to her diet, and the combination of joining Jayla in jumping is helping her to reduce her blood pressure. Rather than focusing on appearance, Jones does an excellent job showing readers how to make healthier lifestyle choices through fun exercise and healthier eating. Strong family bonds are highlighted through church and family gatherings, exhibiting the benefits of coming together as a community.
VERDICT Jayla’s relatable trials and tribulations will resonate with many middle grade readers. The catchy jumping chants across the generations may inspire a resurgence of Double Dutch among a new generation.

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