All Different Now:
Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
by Angela Johnson; illus. by E. B. Lewis
Primary Simon 40 pp.
5/14 978-0-689-87376-8 $17.99
e-book ed. 978-1-4814-0647-5 $10.99
Juneteenth — commemorating June 19th, 1865, the date slaves in Texas finally learned of their emancipation — is a day of celebration for many African Americans. In exquisite, lyrical text, Johnson reimagines that historic event from the perspective of one fictional family, on a day that started like any other. Families wake and head to the fields to pick cotton under the blistering sun. But soon, “word spread / from the port, / to town, /through the countryside, / and into the fields / that a Union general had read from a balcony that we were all / now and forever free / and things / would be / all different now.” The words build to a crescendo of emotions as these now-free people bow their heads to offer up prayers or raise their eyes to the heavens and prepare for a new life of freedom. Lewis’s soft watercolors mirror the emotion of the text — the sun reflects off the grateful faces, eyes face the future with clarity. The last spread shows the family, with carts packed, moving away from slavery and into a world that is “all different now.” Placed alongside the many very good books about slavery for young readers, Johnson and Lewis’s story is an excellent next step in African American history, a celebration of moving forward.