Jayylen's Juneteenth Surprise (Jayylen)

by Lavaille Lavette (Author) David Wilkerson (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
Series: Jayylen

This inspiring Little Golden Book tells the story of one young boy's first experience celebrating Juneteenth.

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?

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School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2--This Little Golden Book explains why African Americans celebrate Juneteenth. After Jayylen and his family move "back home from the big city," Jayylen's grandfather, Paw Paw Jimmy, decides it is time to teach his grandson about their family traditions by arranging a Juneteenth celebration with two-steppin' and music. Jayylen does not understand what Juneteenth is, so his mother and grandfather explain: "That was the day when enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally learned that they were free." The subject of slavery is explained to Jayylen in matter-of-fact terms that are appropriate for his young age; his mother tells Jayylen that enslaved people "are forced to work without pay" and that "many African people were taken from their countries. A lot of them were brought to America, where they were forced to do hard work and treated very poorly." A fun cultural aspect is infused into the story when Jayylen's grandfather explains the musical style zydeco and teaches Jayylen to play the frottoir. Illustrations are simple, but effective, and include enjoyable details such as the Elijah McCoy poster that hangs on Jayylen's bedroom wall, and the shrimp and grits that the family eats for dinner. VERDICT For parents who want to introduce the meaning behind their Juneteenth celebrations; libraries with collections of Little Golden Books should include this one to broaden their selection.--Peggy Henderson Murphy

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Lavaille Lavette
Lavaille Lavette is a New York Times' bestselling author and editor, social entrepreneur, educator, leadership and business development expert. A former teacher and school district administrator, Lavaille served as Special Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Rod Paige. She is a Founding Board Member and the first President of the Luanda Africa Sister City Association, and currently she serves on the board of advisers for Huvr Inc. and BreakOut App. She has used her branding, merchandising and sales expertise to manage a number of business ventures with well-known celebrities and athletes in the publishing, aviation, food, retail, and sports industries. In her leisure time she enjoys skateboarding, supporting various charitable ventures, and spending time with her husband John, family and friends.

David Wilkerson is an American illustrator who was born in Denver, CO, and is currently based in Maryland. He's worked as a designer on various projects for clients such as Hulu, Cartoon Network, Springhill Company, FOX Sports, and FUSE. David developed a love for illustration during his time at the Savannah College of Art and Design. In addition to music, he was heavily influenced by illustrators like Ronald Wimberly, Justin Bua, Joe Madureira, Kevin Dart, Gyimah Gariba, and Scott Wills. David believes that creation itself is what we live in, and he's spent the last 20+ years creating the most authentic version of himself as possible.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Golden Books
Publication date
May 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV011010 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - African-American
JUV017080 - Juvenile Fiction | Holidays & Celebrations | Other, Non-Religious
Library of Congress categories

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