10 Children's Books to Pick Up This Juneteenth
One of the best ways to teach kids about different holidays and history is through age-appropriate books. Juneteenth is no exception. Though it wasn't officially recognized as a national holiday until 2021, it's as important to the nation's history as July 4, because it commemorates the emancipation of enslaved people. On June 19, 1865, troops arrived in Galveston, TX — a state in which slavery had continued to be practiced, despite the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued nearly two and a half years earlier, on Jan. 1, 1863 — to ensure that all enslaved people were freed.
The date is hugely important in the US, and it's an opportunity to celebrate freedom, honor formerly enslaved people, and learn about the history of the day and the way it affects the nation today. So we pulled together a reading list of kids' books about Juneteenth. These 10 Juneteenth books tell moving personal stories, illustrate the history and context of the day, and serve as the perfect opportunity to open the door to your little one's questions about slavery and Juneteenth.
— Additional reporting by Mirel Zaman
"Jayylen's Juneteenth Surprise"
What It's About: "When Jayylen's grandfather Paw Paw Jimmy begins preparing for a big Juneteenth celebration, Jayylen has a lot of questions. Most importantly, what is Juneteenth? His mother and Paw Paw Jimmy explain that the holiday marks the anniversary of when enslaved African Americans found out that they were free. Paw Paw Jimmy plays some zydeco for him, which is the type of music they will dance to at the celebration. Jayylen practices every day so that he will be able to play the frottoir (a percussion instrument similar to a washboard) for everyone. But will he be able to pull off an even bigger surprise for the day?"
Ages It's Best Suited For: 2–5 years old
"Jayylen's Juneteenth Surprise" ($6), by Lavaille Lavette (author) and David Wilkerson (illustrator)
"The History of Juneteenth: A History Book For New Readers"
What It's About: "This colorfully illustrated story takes kids on an exciting journey through all the events that led up to the first Juneteenth, the day itself, and the impact it had on the future of the United States."
Ages It's Best Suited For: 6–11 years old
"The History of Juneteenth: A History Book For New Readers" ($8), by Arlisha Norwood, PhD
"Juneteenth For Mazie"
What It's About: "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 longer slaves. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth. This beautiful eBook will captivate both children and adults."
Ages It's Best Suited For: 6–9 years old
"Juneteenth For Mazie" ($6), by Floyd Cooper
"The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States"
What It's About: "With colorful illustrations and a timeline, this introductory history of Juneteenth for kids details the evolution of the holiday commemorating the date the enslaved people of Texas first learned of their freedom."
Ages It's Best Suited For: 4–11 years old
"The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States" ($9), by Alliah L. Agostini (author) and Sawyer Cloud (illustrator)
"Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth"
What It's About: "Black activist Opal Lee had a vision of Juneteenth as a holiday for everyone. This true story celebrates Black joy and inspires children to see their dreams blossom. Growing up in Texas, Opal knew the history of Juneteenth, but she soon discovered that many Americans had never heard of the holiday. Join Opal on her historic journey to recognize and celebrate 'freedom for all.'"
Ages It's Best Suited For: 6–8 years old
"Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth" ($11), by Alice Faye Duncan (author) and Keturah A. Bobo (illustrator)
What It's About: "Joining her parents in a community celebration of Juneteenth, Cassie learns about the day when slaves in Texas were freed some two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and wonders why the news took so long to reach them."
Ages It's Best Suited For: 6–9 years old
"Juneteenth Jamboree" ($11), by Carole Boston Weatherford (author) and Yvonne Buchanan (illustrator)
"All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom"
What It's About: "Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. This stunning picture book includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates, and a glossary of relevant terms.
Told in Angela Johnson's signature melodic style and brought to life by E.B. Lewis's striking paintings, All Different Now is a joyous portrait of the dawn breaking on the darkest time in our nation's history."
Ages It's Best Suited For: 5–9 years old
"All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom" ($12), by Angela Johnson (author) and E.B. Lewis (illustrator)
"Juneteenth: A Picture Book For Kids Celebrating Black Joy"
What It's About: "A lyrical picture book about our newest national holiday, Juneteenth follows the annual celebration in Galveston, TX—birthplace of Juneteenth—through the eyes of a boy coming to understand his place in Black American history in a story from three Texan creators."
Ages It's Best Suited For: 4–8 years old
"Juneteenth: A Picture Book For Kids Celebrating Black Joy" ($19), by Van G. Garrett (author), Reginald C. Adams (illustrator), and Samson Bimbo Adenugba (illustrator)
"Annie and Juneteenth"
What It's About: "Annie is a young girl who is experiencing the arrival of Union troops in Galveston, TX, in 1865. She is frightened and wants to know what the Union Army soldier is saying. Annie looks at her mother for answers to her questions. The arrival of the Union soldiers eventually brings many changes in Annie's life. Years later, Annie is able to celebrate Juneteenth with her family and community."
Ages It's Best Suited For: All ages
"Annie and Juneteenth" ($13), by Ms. Aletta Seales (author) and Artkina Celestin (illustrator)