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Melena's Jubilee Hardcover – November 8, 2016
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Yesterday, "it seemed like everybody was mad at me," thinks Melena, but on this morning the rain has washed away the mistakes of yesterday, and there is a song in her heart. On this special day, Melena wakes up and finds that her mother and grandmother have forgiven her. This inspires her to share the peace and happiness she feels with all those around her. So when faced with the opportunity to start a fight with her brother, she refrains, and instead of demanding back money loaned to a friend, she insists that they pool their cash so they can all have an even tastier treat. The special day ends with Melena and her friends sitting atop the jungle gym together, marveling at the beauty of the world. Readers are sure to empathize with Melena as she learns from her mistakes and shares her joy with her friends and family. The artwork features delicate watercolors that place emotive faces amid bright and detailed cut-paper backgrounds. The vibrant illustrations build to a striking finale with a fantastic mixed-media sunset. Back matter includes an author's note on the origin of Jubilee and its significance to many African Americans, as well as a list of seven things readers can do to have their own "fresh start day!" VERDICT An excellent addition to any library, not just those looking to expand their collections of African American literature.—Laken Hottle, Providence Community Library
“Elliott (Bird) weaves a contemplative and thought-provoking story of new beginnings as a brown-skinned girl named Melena wakes up “with a song in my heart.” ...Befitting the sense of grace that Melena clings to, Boyd’s (Luigi and the Barefoot Races) vibrant mixed-media images evoke the heft and poise of stained glass windows, whether showing Melena and her elders picking garden vegetables or the girl and her friends perched on the jungle gym, gazing at swirling clouds. An extensive author’s note delves into the historical concept of jubilee and ties the book’s messages to grassroots activism, social justice, and community self-improvement. Ages 4–10. (Oct.)” (PW)
“Little Melena learns the power of a fresh start... 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...Boyd's bright, multimedia illustrations depict a warm, loving family and a cheery urban neighborhood. 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)” (Kirkus Reviews)
“This is a great reminder to children of the joys that kindness, generosity, and grace can bring to you. Instead of forcing her way through the day, Melena considers others first and treats the day as a fresh start, putting all her problems from yesterday behind her. Recommended for one-on-one reading with older pre-readers, or for independent reading for young readers. The seven tips to your own Fresh Start Day are a nice addition, as is the author's note on the significance of the concept of jubilee in African-American history and the importance of debt relief to struggling peoples and nations.” (Jessica Rodrigues - Net Galley)
“Melena awakes to a beautiful day with the feeling of new possibilities in her heart. The day before, one of Gramma’s friends tripped over toys Melena forgot to put away, and the fall caused her mother’s vase to break. On this morning, Melena puts her toys away, makes her bed, and chooses peace and kindness―she doesn’t hit her brother with a pillow and doesn’t ask for money she had lent out the previous week.Instead, she shares what she has and looks for ways to enjoy the things that are sometimes taken for granted. Colorful, collage like illustrations of brown-skinned Melena and her friends and family appear in rich, saturated tones and bright backgrounds, evoking the sunshiney atmosphere of the story. An author’s note provides some additional background about the history of the Day of Jubilee and its importance to the African American community. Young readers might be moved to consider a more positive outlook after reading about Melena’s kind choices and reflect on her wisdom as she appreciates the day from the start.” (Selenia Paz - Booklist)
“This book is so nice. It is happy because Melena is happy about what she has, and she makes good choices and thinks about other people. She decides not to be rude, like she knows she can hurt her brother but decides not to, and then she feels really good about doing good things. You will like reading about how Melena has a fresh start. You can have a fresh start every day, too!” (Liesel, Age 5 - Kids Book Buzz)
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Top Customer Reviews
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!