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Picture Book Review – Juneteenth Is

 

JUNETEENTH IS
Written by Natasha Tripplett
Illustrated by Daniel J. O’Brien
(Chronicle Kids; $17.99, Ages 5-8)

 

 

Juneteenth Is cover family sitting on front steps with Juneteenth flag.

 

 

From the first page of Juneteenth Is, when the young girl wakes up “to the smoky smell of Daddy’s slow-cooking brisket” on the barbeque outside, I knew I was in for a treat. Author Tripplett wastes no time getting the main characters on the move to grab good sidewalk seats to watch the parade. O’Brien’s digitally rendered art, imbued with emotion and movement, makes us want to reach out to grab the candy being tossed as jubilant music is played. His detailed illustrations invite careful study and Tripplett’s prose keeps the story flowing at a steady pace, much like the parade itself.

Later on, the family gathers at Granddaddy’s house in what is one of my favorite spreads. While the main character takes photos, other people are playing dominoes, and some are playing music. “Juneteenth is ladies singing in the kitchen.” There is lots of activity but everyone takes some time out to watch an informal game of basketball before heading back indoors for a prayer and a meal. A great line, “Juneteenth is generations of family recipes,” is followed by an array of hearty food including “Secret rub on finger-lickin’ chicken, juicy mouth-on-fire hot links, mac ‘n’ cheese, collard greens, potato salad …” and much more including, because what’s a celebration without tales to go with it, “… stories from the past.”

 

 

Juneteenth Is int1 Juneteenth parade.
Interior spread from Juneteenth Is written by Natasha Tripplett and illustrated by Daniel J. O’Brien, Chronicle Kids ©2024.

 

Juneteenth is so much more than the food and all the fun. Readers will see in this picture book’s art how in this family’s home, photographs play an important role. Not only is the little girl capturing the festivities on film she is also looking at Granddaddy’s wall of photos honoring family members past and present. “Juneteenth is the history lesson not taught in school.” He explains to his granddaughter about the hardships their enslaved ancestors endured, and about the opportunities denied them. Then came that historic day when “General Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and read the order: Slaves are free.” That day was June 19, 1865. It’s now a federal holiday.

 

Juneteenth Is int2 Juneteenth is the house getting louder.
Interior spread from Juneteenth Is written by Natasha Tripplett and illustrated by Daniel J. O’Brien, Chronicle Kids ©2024.

 

“Former slaves marched in the first Juneteenth parade.” And the marching continues every Juneteenth to celebrate that freedom as the Black community unites to reflect on the struggles and lives lost while also looking forward in hope for the future of our country and the Black community. “Juneteenth is all of us.” “We are America.” Proud, powerful words bring the book to a close but not before checking out Tripplett explanation of the significance the color red plays on the Juneteenth celebrations. Add this book to your bookshelf today to give your children a meaningful introduction to this important American holiday.

Find out more about the author, Natasha Tripplett, here.

Find out more about the illustrator, Daniel J. O’Brien, here.

 

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