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[Children] JUNETEENTH- Freedom's Gifts

Freedom's Gifts: A Juneteenth Story
by Valerie Wesley
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books; 1st ed edition (May 1, 1997)
ISBN: 0689802692

Editorial Reviews from

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 3. Wesley 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
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The New York Times Book Review, Christopher Paul Curtis

... a "nine flat" sprinter of a tale. It takes off running and never slows.... Valerie Wesley makes the language in Freedom's Gifts sing. For children 8 and older, the ones who read independently but still like lots of illustrations, this is a delightful treat. Age 8 and older

From Booklist

Gr. 3-6. On June_ 19, 1943, June's family is celebrating the annual Juneteenth holiday, commemorating the day in 1865 when the slaves in Texas were first told they were free. June's sullen cousin Lillie, visiting from New York City, is bored with "the dumb old slave holiday," but when their Great-great-aunt Marshall tells them about what it was like for her to be born a slave and to be set free, even Lillie is profoundly moved.

The cousins become friends, and Juneteenth is their holiday, too. Yet, it is 1943, there are "Whites Only" signs in the town, and Lillie shows June that there is still freedom to be fought for. The layered narrative is sometimes confusing, set in the past and talking about the past, but if middle-graders read the historical note at the back, they will be ready for the family story.

Wilson's handsome full-page pastels--like her illustrations for Sisulu's The Day Gogo Went to Vote (1996)--capture the family scenes, with realistic portraits of old and young celebrating their hard-won freedom. Hazel Rochman


With the help of their elderly Aunt Marshall, June and her cousin Lillie celebrate Juneteenth, the day Texas slaves found out they had been freed, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation."

Card catalog description

When a girl from New York visits her cousin in Texas, she learns the origin of Juneteenth, a holiday marking the day Texan slaves realized they were free.

"Guided by the Ancestors"

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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