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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Angela Johnson, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom

johnson all different now All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom I have written about and talked about this book a lot elsewhere, so it seems time to put my finger on why the Caldecott committee should take a close look at All Different Now.

Before I start, I want to dispel a myth I hear a lot. It goes something like this: this is really a Coretta Scott King Award book, so the Caldecott committee will figure it will win there and might not pay much attention to it. NO. NO. NO. That’s not how it goes.

The Caldecott committee is not allowed to think or talk like that. It doesn’t work like that. When I was on Caldecott, Dave the Potter was honored by both committees. Each committee works independently of the other. I know because I have been lucky enough to serve on both the Caldecott and the CSK committees. So, I would never be surprised to see this book (or any eligible title) honored by both. It should happen more often, actually, that a book is honored by a number of committees. Though each committee has its own manual and criteria (and here I am talking about every committee, whether it’s part of the American Library Association or not), every committee is hoping to identify the best book, best art, best story of the year. I am thinking of the year Steve Sheinkin’s Bomb won in a gazillion categories: I wanted the wealth to be spread, but understood how it happened that one book pleased so many constituencies. So to repeat, there is no communication between the committees. And on the Monday morning when the awards are announced, everyone in the room is surprised (or disappointed) at the same time.

On to All Different Now. Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis have created something special here. For those of you who might not know, Juneteenth refers to the anniversary of the day that slaves in Texas heard the news that the Civil War had ended and that slavery had been abolished. Plantation owners kept the information away from their slaves, and Union soldiers had trouble getting into Texas to tell them. Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, on June 19th 1865; hence the moniker Juneteenth. The excellent back matter tells the reader everything that was probably skipped in American history classes.

But this is not a history book; this is a story imagining how people reacted to the news that they were finally free, that things were “all different now.” Lewis’s painterly style is perfect for this story. Using a child narrator, Johnson and Lewis tell the story of the news of Emancipation spreading from the port to the town to the country and to the fields in one stunning paneled spread. Look closely at the astonished faces of the women, the suspicious looks from the men, and the jubilant body motions of the people in the cotton field. Lewis and Johnson imagine the feelings: anger, jubilation, confusion, gratitude, frustration. Somehow Lewis is able to paint all those feelings. He also shows how strong the family is in the story: at the beginning we see the children warm under a quilt and next we see a mother or sister taking care of the children. Everyone, from one-hundred-year-old Mr. Jake to the baby in Aunt Laura’s arms, is cared for; everyone understands the seriousness of the news they have just received.

Lewis’s watercolors use color and tone to tell this story. Muted greens and browns tell the story of the first half of the book; a more hopeful blue enters at the halfway point. The white of the beach pushes away the brown of the field, and the girls’ white dresses pop against the night sky and the burning fire. The night scenes are somber.

I love the final spread, where the only words are “all different now.” The little houses are closed up and the people are leaving. For what? To go where? The text does not reveal where they are going, allowing the reader to imagine herself into the story.

I return to the cover often. The outstretched arms of so many women (and one man) give me a little chill. And sometimes a little chill is all it takes for someone to champion a book. I would champion this one, if I were on the committee.

 

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The post All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom appeared first on The Horn Book.

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2. The Day Ray Got Away

By Angela Johnson
Illustrated by Luke LaMarca
$16.99, ages 5 and up,40 pages.

How do you keep the sun down on a bright and clear day, especially if it's been tethered to the ground for years?

Well, if it's a sun called, "Ray", an enormous parade balloon, and "today's the day," there isn't much you can do but watch it slip away.

(And if you're like me and enjoy seeing a balloon get free, if only to imagine how far it might go, maybe you smile and blow a bit of air his way.)

Just in time for the Thanksgiving Macy's Day parade comes a sweet, simple story of a trusty old helium balloon that tires of being obedient, takes to the sky and never looks back.

The day Ray got away, the morning sun painted the sky orange-red as balloons gussied themselves up in a warehouse and one fretted about cramped conditions backstage.

The Big Fat Cartoon Cat and the Superheroes watched their tummies swell with helium, as the Moose groused about where to put his antlers, which stuck out from his head like wings.

The new balloon, a zippy little jet plane, was doing what all new recruits do, whirring about the hanger-sized room and jockeying to be first in the parade.

And Ray? Well, he woke with a smile, as he always did, given the huge toothy smile permanently printed on his fabric, and he quietly rose to the ceiling of the warehouse, as air pumped into him from below.

Gazing out the big windows of the warehouse, the patched-up fellow declared, "This is the Day," but was it really? All the other balloons thought Ray was dreaming. After all, he'd never tried to cut loose before.

Still, when it was time to be led out, rope by rope by rope, they all wondered if Ray would break free and every one of them held their breath, though one could say they had no choice but to suck it in. Holding air, after all, is what they do.

Sidewalks flanked by towering buildings were packed with fans and not one of the fans was

1 Comments on The Day Ray Got Away, last added: 11/24/2010
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3. Have you used this mentor text?

I’ve been toting around Those Shoes a lot when I’m conferring with my students lately. I’m teaching them things like how to vary sentence lengths and ways to incorporate precise language into their personal narratives by showing them multiple places in Boelts’ Text where she does these things. However, late last week, when I was [...]

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4. The Craft Table for A SWEET SMELL OF ROSES is complete!

I dissected Angela Johnson’s Book, A Sweet Smell of Roses, to the best of my ability today. I created wordy teaching points so you can truly help your students to see what craft moves Johnson made (at least, the ones I think she made). This will help you show the writers in your [...]

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