Freedom's Gifts: A Juneteenth Story

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A small Texan town's Juneteenth celebration in 1943 is the setting for Wesley's (Where Do I Go from Here) resonant picture book, which offers a penetrating perspective on the degree of liberation the holiday commemorated in the precivil rights South. African American cousins June and Lillie listen intently to their elderly great-great-aunt Marshall's articulate first-hand account of the evil days of slavery ("We were born grown back thenat least we felt it") and of her memories of June 19, 1865, the day that she and all the other slaves in Texas learned, a full two and a half years after Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, that they were free. "Are we free now?" asks June, who has just tried to explain to a disgruntled Lillie, visiting from the North, why a nearby drinking fountain displays a "Whites Only" sign. Aunt Marshall's wise, poignantly ironic words concede that she is "as free as I'll be before I'll die. But not as free as you'll be someday." Intentionally hazy, Wilson's (The Day Gogo Went to Vote) textured pastel art is composed of an unusually diverse configuration of fine and broad strokes. These create some intriguing background patterns, including a recurrent concentric design resembling the whorls of a fingerprint. The result is sophisticated and distinctivea statement that is also true of Wesley's forthright treatment of a sensitive and important subject. Ages 8-up. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3Wesley explores a unique holiday in Texas that has recently begun to be celebrated by African Americans in other parts of the U.S. as well. While Lincoln declared the slaves free in January 1863, the slaves in Texas were not freed until June 19, 1865. Set in 1943, this story tells of June, a young African-American Texan, and her cousin who is visiting from New York City. Juneteenth is June's favorite holiday, but Lillie belittles it until the girls go to the big celebratory picnic and their great-great-aunt Marshall, once a slave, helps her understand the importance of "freedom's gifts." Besides providing good basic information on the holiday, the author sketches nicely the loving relationship between Aunt Marshall and June, and the wary, hostile atmosphere between the cousins, which gradually changes. By setting the story in 1943, Wesley underlines Aunt Marshall's contention that even though their people still must use segregated facilities, "freedom's gifts" are precious and will grow with time. The impressionistic pastel illustrations are lovely, rendered in warm colors that convey the heat of the summer and the joyousness of the town's celebration. A beautiful effort, of special interest to Texans, but sure to enrich any library collection because of its subject matter and its quality.Judith Constantinides, East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689802690
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/1/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: 580L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.32 (w) x 10.31 (h) x 0.71 (d)

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