All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom

Angela Johnson, illus. by E.B. Lewis. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-689-87376-8
This elegant collaboration by the creators of Lily Brown’s Paintings tells of the day that slaves on a Texas plantation learn they are free, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Johnson’s graceful poem is narrated by a girl who heads to the cotton fields one June morning with her family and other slaves, unaware “that soon,/ it would all be different.” As word spreads, reactions range from serene contemplativeness to elation. Amid the cotton plants, an elderly man cries quietly, several adults bow their heads in prayer, and the girl’s mother silently hugs her: “My mama held my hand softly/ and looked beyond,/ as another breeze blew over/ and everything/ fell to a/ hush.” Using a lovely, muted palette, Lewis’s expressive watercolors convey the impact of the news of freedom, dramatically contrasting the slaves’ lives before and after. Initially picturing the slaves toiling “under the hot Texas sun,” Lewis later captures their tranquil joy as they gather on a beach in the cool night “as free people.” Back matter provides historical context for this powerfully visualized story. Ages 5–9. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/17/2014
Release date: 05/06/2014
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