Juneteenth for Mazie
Written by Floyd Cooper
Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Capstone Young Readers 2/01/2015
40 pages Age 6—9
“Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty. She is ready to celebrate freedom. She is ready to celebrate a great day in American history—the day her ancestors were no onger slaves. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth. This beautiful story by award-winning author and illustrator Floyd Cooper will captivate both children and adults.”
Juneteenth for Mazie made me think. I read it, slowly, three times, enjoying the story more with each read. Being a children’s historical fiction and a diversity book makes Juneteenth for Mazie a picture book that deserves more than a quick glance. Young Mazie is not having one of her better days. She wants to play outside, but it is too late in the day; and eat a cookie, but it is nearly bedtime; and stay up late, but she is too young. Dad asks why his “Sugar Bear” is grumpy.
“I can’t go where I want, have what I want, or do what I want.”
Tomorrow, Dad tells his daughter, is a day of celebrating—Juneteenth. Though not understanding, Mazie’s above frustrations mirror those of her not-so-distant relatives. What is Juneteenth? How is it rooted in early American history? Juneteenth is a celebration, much like the Fourth of July or Independence Day. In fact, another name for this celebration is Juneteenth Independence Day. Most of us know this day as Emancipation Day; some as Freedom Day. On the final page, author/illustrator Floyd Cooper explains what happened.¹
150-years-ago this year, Mazie’s fictional Great, Great, Great Grandpa Mose became a free man. Dad relates Grandpa Mose’s life beginning with working long days in cotton fields as a slave—all the time thinking of and praying for freedom and a better life—to running for the northern United States and freedom, where life would be difficult but his own; to the day Mose’s first heard President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, and then celebrating the first Juneteenth. The newly free never forgot the huge significance of that day, even as they continued to struggle with inequality. My favorite sentences are these:
“They learned and grew . . .
“They forgave . . .
“They excelled and accomplished . . .
“They became heroes . . .”
The brown and yellow oil painting illustrations are wonderful, but I do not like the grainy-look (more pronounced in print). Cooper’s technique does give the spreads the look and feel of a time long ago that has aged, but never lost its details, despite repeat readings.
Rooted firmly in history, Juneteenth for Mazie relates the most important details in kid-friendly language. Cooper, while forgoing chunks of detail, keeps the story and history lesson interesting, thoughtful, and accessible to young children. His writing style and story will engage kids in history more than any textbook ever could. Teachers should find no trouble integrating Juneteenth for Mazie into their lesson plans. Juneteenth for Mazie is both heart wrenching and heartwarming.
A side note: 2015 marks not only the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, but also the 50th anniversary of the the Voting Rights Act of 1965.²
JUNETEENTH FOR MAZIE. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Floyd Cooper. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Capstone Young Readers, North Mankato, MN.
Learn more about Juneteenth for Mazie HERE.
Meet award-winning author/illustrator, Floyd Cooper, at his website: http://www.floydcooper.com/
Find more nonfiction/ historical fiction picture books at the Capstone website: http://www.capstonepub.com/
Capstone Young Readers is a Capstone imprint.
Review Section: word count = 401³
Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews
¹“On June 19, 1865, soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, announcing the end of the Civil War and the end of slavery in the United States. It was more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Celebrated every year on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of African-American citizens throughout the United States.”
²Thanks to Capstone for mentioning the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the Juneteenth for Mazie press release.
³Trying to keep the review portion between a 400—600 word count. Hoping that by noting this, it will keep me focused on this goal. Chide me if I miss this range (unless it is a “great review,” of course :))