Do you know the concept of „Jubilee“? I didn’t until I first held Zetta Elliot’s “Melena’s Jubilee” in my hands. The Jubilee year is mentioned in the Biblical Book of Leviticus. It should occur every fiftieth year, “in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.” The concept was especially embraced by the African American slave community who longed for freedom. When President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 they declared it the “Day of Jubilee”, believing that the end of slavery was to come. But we don’t have to wait 50 years to wait for things to turn around… In her book “Melena’s Jubilee”, Zetta Elliot embraces the concept of every day as a new start do so something good and change our life.
Melena, the heroine of this book, wakes up with a wonderful, positive song in her head – just to remember that yesterday wasn’t a good day. She forgot to put her toys away, which lead to a series to unfortunate events… Luckily both her grandma and mom forgive her, declare this morning as a fresh start. Melena carries this idea with her all day, forgiving her brother for a smack on the head, picking vegetables in grandma’s garden and sharing a desired hot fudge sundae with her friends instead of calling in a dept. Every act of kindness brings great joy, because “it’s about waking up to a blue sky and finding out you have been forgiven. It’s about free sunshine, and the tasty things that grow in my grandmother’s garden. But mostly it’s about the chance to start all over again, every single day!”
“Melena’s Jubilee“ is a wonderful book to talk about empathy and the power of compassion – both hard to grasp concepts for preschoolers! Per her own words, Zetta Elliot writes about black children because “I grew up believing I was invisible in the real world, and it hurt just as much to discover that I was also invisible in the realm of the imaginary. I write the books I wish I had had as a child.” Children’s’ literature should embrace all children so children can find themselves in these books – no matter the skin color, religion and potential handicaps. Diverse children’s literature was always an important, but often overlooked matter. Recent political events are a humanitarian and political disaster, but at least they underlined the importance of inclusive, diverse books to broaden our childrens’ view of the world.
Zetta Elliots book is accomplished by wonderful artwork by Aaron Boyd. He incorporates almost photo-like pictures of Melena and her friend in an artistic, abstract background. Like the book itself the illustrations can be a great discussion starter. Furthermore, the author’s note and a list of seven potentials ways for a “fresh start day” offer multiple activities for schools and families.
A wonderful book to brighten a hard day, to learn about African-American culture or just to enjoy a thoroughly positive book! “Milena’s Jubilee” was published by Tilbury House, a multi-award winning independent publishing company. The goal of Tilbury House is to publish picture books that nourish a child’s imagination. “Picture books must be beautiful, of course, or they will not be opened. They must entertain or they will not be read. And they must be accurate, even when exploring a concept as complex as the Big Bang or as fraught as race, family, or death. But sparking the imagination is the most important thing, and the hardest.”
About the author:
Zetta Elliott is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in publishing. She is the author of more than twenty books for young readers, including the award-winning picture book Bird and an urban fantasy novel. Three books published under her own imprint, Rosetta Press, have been named Best Children’s Books of the Year by the Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature.
About the illustrator:
Aaron Boyd is the illustrator of 25 children’s books. His pop-up Storybook Year won a Clio Top 4 award and was inducted into the Smithsonian Rare Books collection. He has also received Children’s Africana Book, Choices Sports, Notable Children’s Book, and Hermes Creative awards, and his advertising graphics have received Addy Gold and Graphis awards.