Little Melena learns the power of a fresh start.
The little black girl wakes up “with a song in her heart” before remembering that yesterday was not such a good day: she forgot to put her toys away, so Gramma’s friend tripped, breaking Mama’s favorite vase. But “I never let the sun go down on my anger,” Gramma says, and Mama tells her she’s “got a fresh start.” This becomes the conscious theme for her interactions all day long, as she decides that hitting her older brother because he thumped her last week isn’t in the spirit of a fresh start and that pooling money for a hot-fudge sundae split several ways is preferable to demanding that Gavin repay a loan. In Melena, Elliott creates a thoughtful, upbeat character whose impulses are convincingly childlike. In between her musings on fresh starts, she plays with her friends (a multiracial group) and helps her grandmother harvest lunch from the garden. The text is on the long side, but it encompasses diversions that both flesh out Melena’s character and keep it from feeling overwhelmingly didactic. Boyd’s bright, multimedia illustrations depict a warm, loving family and a cheery urban neighborhood but occasionally look muddy and do not significantly extend the text. An author’s note provides context on the concept of jubilee—forgiveness—and tips for readers on making their own fresh starts.
This cheerful meditation on starting over features a character that’s hard not to love. (Picture book. 4-7)