Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Jayla Jumps In

Jones, Joy. Jayla Jumps In
September 1st 2020 by Albert Whitman & Company
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Jayla lives in Washington, D.C. surrounded by extended family and friends. At a Thanksgiving gathering, she's often annoyed by her older cousin, Shontessa, and finds her older relatives a bit irritating as well. She's surprised when she finds out that her mother, who is very busy, is struggling with some health issues, including her weight and hypertension. When Shontessa is watching a lot of YouTube videos of Double Dutch competitions, Jayla is intrigued, especially when her mother and her uncle's fiance mention that they were active in the sport when they were younger. With their Christmas money, Shontessa and Jayla obtain clothesline for the jump ropes, and Jayla seems to have a talent for it. She wants to get a group together at school, but is disappointed when the gym teacher is too busy too help, and instead recommends the after school coordinator, Ms. McMillan, whom Jayla thinks is "the most clueless woman known to man". It turns out that Ms. McMillan has already started a group for jump rope, albeit single ropes and not Double Dutch. Even though the group doesn't really get started until March, Jayla finds out about a competition on the first of April, and pressures Ms. McMillan to help the group enter. Despite having very few practices and having to enlist Shontessa in order to have enough people, Jayla is sure that her group could win the competition, and she would then be a Double Dutch superstar with instant popularity. When the group is disqualified because Shontessa is too old, Jayla is crushed. In the meantime, her mother is trying to make changes to her diet, and finds that returning to the sport of her youth is effecting positive changes in her well being. As school ends, Jayla has to deal with changes in her family when her uncle marries, plans her summer of Double Dutch at the local rec center, and makes a new friend.
Strengths: I always enjoy books where young people have a particular passion and work hard to incorporate it into their lives. Jayla's journey is a bit rocky, but she perseveres, and even spreads her passion to those around her. The inclusion of church services and social events is welcome, and the discussion about health issues in the African-American population is something I haven't seen much in middle grade literature. Jayla thinks that Krazy Krunchies ( an inventive junk food that are like sweet potato chips!) aren't poison, and her cousin Antwon thinks their sugar, salt and grease are better than food that grows out of the ground and has dirt on it, but Jayla's uncle reminds her mother that the food, while tasty, is really bad for her health issues. I like that most of these discussions center around health and not appearance. The complicated relationships with her extended family are also interesting, and I would like to see more family weddings portrayed in middle grade literature. I'm also a huge fan of sports for girls, and this is a great addition to other books about Double Dutch like Spicer-Dannelly's Love Double Dutch (2018) and Draper's Double Dutch (2004)
Weaknesses: Jayla and my 86 year old father would get along famously. Jayla comments negatively on many of the people around her, especially about their weight, and seems discontented with many aspects of her life. I wish she hadn't been so negative about everything.
What I really think: I will purchase this if I am able to; there are many things to like about this book, although it's been a struggle to get my readers interested in Double Dutch.

Ms. Yingling

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