Juneteenth 2022

It’s Juneteenth! This year I have a roundup of some books for younger readers less familiar with Juneteenth and a cookbook that will provide everything you need for a Juneteenth cookout, and at any gathering all year.

If you’re looking for more information about Juneteenth and the historical context around June 19, 1865, check out my Web Story below! It has some links to organizations and primary sources.

(If you’ve never used a WS before, it can be navigated in the same way as stories on Instagram.)

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Watermelon & Red Birds: A Cookbook for Juneteenth and Black Celebrations by Nicole A. Taylor Published and sent by Simon & Schuster

Waiting for this cookbook to arrive was almost agonizing, I was so impatient. It did NOT disappoint, and the amount of teeny-paper-shreds-turned-bookmarks that are sticking out look like rows of hungry shark teeth.

Nearly impossible to narrow down the recipes I wanted to include for the inaugural meal, I of course included multiple desserts.

I made: rhubarb BBQ sauce with pulled chicken (p 35), Liberation sundaes (p 177), funnel cakes with apple topping (p 82), sour cream & chive cornbread (p 256), marigold gin sours (p 59), moscato pound cake (p 219), peach crumble pie bars (p 199), peach crumb cake (p 201), and bought my very first watermelon of the season (a very big excitement). The marigolds for the syrup were found at Community Care Apothecary, owned by the lovely Reid who you should definitely visit if you’re in western mass!

If you’re still reading this and haven’t immediately run out to the grocery store, you’ve probably first stopped off at your local inside bookshop to pick up a copy of Watermelon & Red Birds first. The recipes are incredibly delicious (like there was ever any question), Taylor also includes a ton of beautiful writing, historical information, and Black-owned businesses to source ingredients if needed.

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The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini & Sawyer Cloud

Published and sent by Quarto Kids

This book has a lovely flow to it, and while it is text heavy for a picture book, it passes so quickly! Alliah Agostini has written an incredibly thorough and positive narrative about the continued oppression and ripples of post-enslavement life for Black citizens.

I appreciate the authentic account of Lincoln within The Juneteenth Story. Agostini deliberately mentions that he wasn’t always in favor of equitable rights for Black and white citizens. So often he is hailed as the hero of the Civil War, when in reality he leveraged enslavement to be politically successful for his own career. Lincoln was an abolitionist, this is indisputable. But the nuances that he possessed have been lost in favor of the heroic narrative.

Traveling through time, the book includes activism and community organization work in Texas to develop a park in honor of Juneteenth, and the long years of campaigning to have it become a state and finally national holiday.

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Free At Last: A Juneteenth Poem by Sojourner Kincaid Rolle & Alex Bostic

Published by Sterling Children’s Books/Union Sq. & Co

This incredible poem is from Sojourner Kincaid Rolle; she is a poet, playwright, and an environmental educator. Sojourner was also the Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, CA from 2015-2017!

Evocative and somber, the lyrical text focuses on individual reactions to Juneteenth and freedom more than the historic overview on a larger society scale that the above and below reviews have.

The illustrations that Alex Bostic has created for Kincaid’s work feels like walking through an art gallery. The book itself is regular size, but the depth and emotion that Bostic captured makes them feel larger than life. His ability to portray emotion in the eyes and faces of those he draws is unparalleled. The sheer determination that are in the eyes of the figures on the cover is truly just the beginning of this work for all ages.

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The History of Juneteenth by Arlisha Norwood, PhD & Sawyer Cloud

This is an awesome early chapter book, recently released! The layout and clear labeling & timeline of events in each chapter makes it easy to read through or to study a specific piece of the timeline. Something I really appreciate is when the book & text are designed with the reader in mind, and this was very intentionally laid out.

While the contents are squarely about Juneteenth, it clearly outlines exactly how white people (politicians, enslavers, etc.) actively stymied any abolition efforts. It also focuses on joy, something revolutionary in nonfiction.

Sawyer Cloud brings the text to life with her buoyant and expressive illustrations on every page. In the back is a multiple choice quiz, glossary, and reflection questions for a guided discussion. It’s so crucial that young readers today are taught accurately about the past, and The History of Juneteenth is the perfect follow-up for little ones who may or may not have read any Juneteenth picture books previously.

Published by Callisto Kids/Rockridge Press! I also had the opportunity for a sponsored post for Callisto, which you can give a little love to by tapping the image below.

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Juneteenth is a beautiful and deeply personal holiday, and traditions are varied & unique for those who gather. For white people like myself, it’s a day that I spend in reflection and honoring Black activists whose shoulders we all stand upon. After reading all of these books with your family, I hope your takeaways will inform the rest of your year and antiracist practices.

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