Johnson tells a tale of Juneteenth in Texas through the eyes of a child, while Lewis’ earth-toned watercolor illustrations capture the quotidian aspects of the way of life emancipation ended.
The young female speaker who lives and works on the plantation with her mother, siblings and others takes personally the titular phrase, “all different now,” when freedom comes. Just before the Union general announces on the balcony of the big house that the slaves are “now and forever free,” rumors of this news has spread so quickly from the port to the countryside that Lewis includes an image with four vertical panels showing slaves engaged in many different types of work, passing the word and responding with surprise, shock and praise to the news. The historical details that Lewis integrates into the images situate Johnson’s story historically and give young readers a sense of what cotton plantations in the mid-1860s looked like. In the backmatter, Johnson makes clear why this bit of history matters to her, and Lewis shares the impossibility of contemporary Americans’ reaching a true understanding of the lives of 19th-century slaves—but how important it is to try.
The richness of this book’s words and images will inspire readers to learn more about this holiday that never should have been necessary…but was. (Web resources, glossary) (Picture book. 5-9)