Review: Jump Up! A story of Carnival

Carnival! It’s a familiar word and many children will have been to one, but how did it all begin? Author and illustrator Ken Wilson-Max brings to life the roots and the meaning of this celebration of freedom, which stretches all the way back through the memories and traditions of enslaved people, to Africa.

Jump Up! starts with a fiction story told through a little girl’s eyes, about the first carnival. At the end there is a non-fiction section which gives more information on the topic. It includes a useful vocabulary list with the meaning and origins of common Carnival words. I learned lots of new things – the steel pan drums are very familiar to me from Birmingham streets, but I didn’t know that their origins were from when enslaved people were forbidden to use drums and instead created rhythms on pans and other things.

That’s another important element of this book: it celebrates creativity. Jump Up! is a story of resourcefulness, hope and inspiration, which tells us how people living in the most dehumanising circumstances were able to create a new and enduring human celebration.

A double spread from the book. On the left hand page, Cecille's dad carves a big mask from wood. On the right. Cecille watches him. Colour: deep green and yellow flowers in a tropical landscape. Text:  Cecille's dad carved a mask. "This will be the first time that we can be ourselves and remember where we come from. We come from so many places," he said.
A double page spread shows what carnival means to the adults in Cecille’s life

This picture book will inspire curiosity and interest in children about the world around them, whether they have a carnival tradition in their area or not. It would be a fantastic book for schools and teachers in particular to use with KS1 children to bring added value and understanding to the carnival period, perhaps to coincide with a class trip. The illustrations are richly-coloured, affectionate and warm. Ken Wilson-Max says: “This book, in a small way, connects the past with the present and hopefully helps readers consider a more inclusive future.” I’m sure it will do that, and in no small way.

The cover is rich in colour

Jump Up! is part of a range of black history books for children in the same format, called Reaching New Generations. It is published by The George Padmore Institute, drawing on their wealth of archives. You can find more information at their website: . Publication was supported by a grant from Arts Council England.

Review by Leila Rasheed

  • Age range: 3 – 7 (but could be used with older children too)
  • Words and illustrations by Ken Wilson-Max
  • Published by the George Padmore Institute
  • ISBN 978-19996198-5-5

Published by Leila from Megaphone

Writer and runs Megaphone: a writer development scheme for people of colour who want to write for children. Tweets @MegaphoneWrite and @LeilaR

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