Do you know how sometimes your hands hover over a book, wanting to open it, sensing that this will be an important book, and you hesitate, wanting to prolong your interaction? I did that, turning All Different Now this way and that, then examining the title page, the jacket flaps … and finally allowing myself to read the book.
The writing by Angela Johnson and the illustration by E.B. Lewis deserve reverence … it’s a beautiful, mind-altering, book of history, promoting understanding and appreciation for the different paths our ancestors traveled to give us our own foundations in life.
As an offspring of German and Norwegian households in Minnesota and Wisconsin, my knowledge of Juneteenth was recognizing the name. Now, thanks to this book, I am aware of how pivotal that date is and why it deserves celebration.
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all slaves in America to be free. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger announced that the Emancipation Proclamation was law from a balcony in Galveston, Texas, that slaves in Texas understood they were free from slavery.
This book takes place on one day, the day when the slaves on a cotton plantation learned the news as it spreads quickly from Galveston. The text is sparse but effective in communicating the disorientation, wonderment, and tentative joy of being a slave one day and free the next.
The illustrations are awash with heat and dust and being worn out. The sun glares. It is the faces, the hands in prayer, the expressive bodies, the quiet celebration in the night that make this book so moving. I revere the work of Mr. Lewis and look forward to each of his books. He has outdone himself here.
Every family in America, every classroom, should own a copy of this book, talking about what it means to be a slave and what it means to be free. Those are important discussions to have. This is one of the best books to start that discussion.
The back matter is rich with emotions and information to aid your discussions and understanding of this moment in time. I hope you’re moved to find your nearest Juneteenth celebration and help with the festivities.
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
written by Angela Johnson
illustrated by E.B. Lewis
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 6, 2014
Celebrating African American emancipation in the United States and freedom worldwide
(This is a review of a book I checked out of our public library.)