Free at Last: A Juneteenth Poem

Sterling. May 2022. 32p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781454943747.
Gr 1-4–Juneteenth, an important celebration of the end of slavery, was first celebrated in Texas in 1865. This was several years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, when enslaved individuals learned of their freedom. Rolle’s poem offers glimpses of the joy of freedom, the hardships of the years after, and how Juneteenth has evolved over time. Many lines directly quote the Emancipation Proclamation, such as “All who live in bondage here shall from now until be free.” Spreads give more context to the meaning behind the freedom Juneteenth celebrates through depictions of formerly enslaved individuals moving forward and finally celebrating in modern times with friends and family. Some sections of the poem rhyme, and some read more like free verse. The poem has an overall lyrical feel that evokes a range of emotions, from sadness for the realities of the many hardships still faced right after emancipation, to the hope and resilience of newfound freedom. Each stanza is paired with gorgeous and warm artwork that complements the text. In the author’s note, Rolle includes more of the history behind Juneteenth, which only became recognized as a national holiday in 2021. This book presents historical moments in an accessible way, through artwork and poetry.
VERDICT A worthy purchase for elementary libraries needing nonfiction texts for the Juneteenth holiday.

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