Juneteenth: Our Day of Freedom

Random. (Step into Reading). May 2022. 48p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780593434796; pap. $4.99. ISBN 9780593434789.
Gr 1-3–A joyful Black family prepares to celebrate Juneteenth, the country’s newest federal holiday. The story moves back in time to June 19, 1865, the original Juneteenth.On that day, enslaved people in Galveston, TX, learned they were free, more than two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the Civil War ended. The narrative uses simple sentence structure and vocabulary to explain challenging concepts: “The crowd grew excited. Enslaved people shouted for joy. When they discovered that they could have been freed two years earlier, many were stunned and angry, too.” The illustrations provide important contextual clues, adding depth to the text. One image shows the anguish on people’s faces as they realize that news about their freedom had been deliberately delayed. Evocative word choices, such as “imagine” and “dream,” invite readers into the narrative, laying the foundation for understanding post-Civil War life. The story describes activities traditionally associated with Juneteenth, including backyard barbecues, marching bands, and conversations about family history. A drawing of a Black Lives Matter banner flanked by four Civil Rights activists from different eras reminds readers about the ongoing struggle for equality and justice. Absent is identifying information about the individuals pictured.
VERDICT An engaging narrative and powerful drawings make this book a standout choice for new readers ready to tackle more challenging content, and for lower grade nonfiction reading groups.

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