A Day for Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day

Leah Henderson, illus. by Floyd Cooper. Abrams, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-4197-3630-8
Transfixed by a photograph of an early assembly for Decoration Day—now observed as Memorial Day—Henderson (Together We March) was led to records of a similar ceremony held in Charleston, S.C., in April 1865. She imagines the event through the story of Eli, the 10-year-old son of a formerly enslaved man, newly freed. After Confederate surrender and subsequent emancipation, Eli’s father works on a project at the racecourse, which once housed Union prisoners, many of whom died of exposure, disease, and starvation. But school comes first for Eli, according to his mother (“Masters locked away learning ’cause knowledge is its own freedom”). At last, the project is revealed: a cemetery “for the soldiers who lost their lives for our freedom.” Oil erasure images by Coretta Scott King Award winner Cooper (Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History) portray Eli, his family, and their town in images whose power and presence invites lingering views. Henderson commemorates the way Eli’s Black community remembers a painful piece of history—while honoring the people who experienced it. Back matter includes an author’s note, information on the roots of Decoration Day, a timeline, and references. Ages 6–9. (May)
Reviewed on : 03/25/2021
Release date: 05/01/2021
Genre: Children's
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