BOOK REVIEW: 'All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom' by Angela Johnson, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
6/11/2014, 3 p.m.
c.2014, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Tomorrow morning, when you wake up, everything will be changed.
Oh, sure, you’ll still be in the same bed with the same sheets and jammies. Your room will be the same room you went to sleep in. Your mom will still be your mom and your dad will still be your dad – but it’ll be a whole new day with new possibilities. As you’ll see in the new book “All Different Now” by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, one day can really mean a lot.
Every morning, the breeze from the gulf woke everyone up, telling them it was time to start the day in the fields beneath the hot Texas sun. Just like every other day, it was time to work and work some more – but there was one day when everything was different, though nobody knew it at first.
And then someone told someone else on the edge of the gulf. And that someone took the word to town, and told friends. The friends were so happy that they spread the message around the country. The news was like a wave in the ocean and pretty soon, everyone in the fields knew – and they were happy.
They knew that “a Union general had read from a balcony” that everyone was free – not just now, but “forever.” From that moment forward, nothing would be like it was the day before. Everything would “be all different now.”
People sang their happiness with faces raised. Others – those who didn’t think they’d ever see it – cried tears of joy. Some could hardly believe that day had come and they “whispered things” to one another.
Since nobody was being forced to work in the fields that day, they all went to the beach for a picnic by the water. Even the sand had changed. Dancing felt new. Food tasted different for those who were free for the first time. Even stories sounded sweeter. And at the end of the day, it was especially nice to walk next to cotton fields that didn’t demand work. It was nice to go to bed, knowing that the next morning and every one after that, the sun would wake everyone up and nothing would ever be the same…
In her notes, author Angela Johnson says that a photo of her great-grandparents led her to wonder how they celebrated when they learned of their freedom which, because they were slaves in Texas, came more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. That’s a great way to introduce the pages of historical overview about Emancipation and Juneteenth that follow, but be sure to read the illustrator’s note, too. E.B. Lewis writes about making this book come alive, which he calls his “biggest challenge.”
The challenge for you, I think, is talking your 3-to-7-year-old into letting go of this book now and then because they’ll want to hold fast to it. As for you, if you’re prone to saying no to “just one more book” then, “All Different Now,” might change your mind.