Melena’s Jubilee

Forgive and be forgiven. It sounds so appealing – why doesn’t it happen every day?

Finding herself forgiven on a rain-scrubbed morning after a difficult day, Melena seizes her fresh start and shares the song in her heart with her family and friends.

It’s a day of new beginnings.

It’s Melena’s jubilee.

Hardcover, 32 pages

Published November 8th 2016 by Tilbury House Publishers
Source: Publisher

Melena wakes up with a song in her heart. She notices that the rain has washed away her sidewalk chalk drawings, and realises that, although the day before had been a tough one, she has been given a fresh start. Melena is determined to make the most of her new day, sharing her joy with everyone she meets.

Author Zetta Elliott uses Melena’s story to introduce young reader’s to the concept of jubilee, which has deep significance in African American culture. As Elliot explains in her fantastic author’s note, “When President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, African Americans declared it the Day of Jubilee…Jubilee Day continues to be celebrated in some parts of the country, and serves as an opportunity for African Americans to reflect on the past and focus on ways to strengthen their communities.”  

In addition to an extensive and information Author’s Note, Melena’s Jubilee features an inspiring list of “seven things you can do to have your very own ‘fresh start day'”, which includes simple, approachable things children can do to spread peace and understanding in their communities.

Aaron Boyd’s collage illustrations are striking, and though they aren’t necessarily my cup of tea, they are definitely eye-catching and brilliantly colourful, and feature a diverse cast of characters, young and old.

Melena’s story is one that will appeal to children and families everywhere – every morning offers us a fresh start, and an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and improve ourselves and our communities. This is definitely a longer picture book, with quite a lot of text, which would perhaps make it best suited for older audiences, such as school-aged children. I can imagine this being worked into a classroom unit, and used to inspire conversations on empathy, community-building, and civic responsibility.

As Elliot explains, “We don’t have to wait 50 years to do things that can change our lives and improve our communities. Every day when we wake up we can choose not to hold onto anger or fight with others – we can choose instead to see the beauty in our world and share what we have with those in need.” Beautiful, inspiring words, and a much needed reminder for readers young and old.