cover image Melena’s Jubilee

Melena’s Jubilee

Zetta Elliott, illus. by Aaron Boyd. Tilbury House, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-88448-443-1

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.” Yesterday, Melena didn’t make her bed, and stray toys on the floor led to her mother’s favorite vase being broken. This morning, all is forgiven: “I never let the sun go down on my anger,” Gramma tells Melena. Throughout the day, Melena makes conscious choices to act with kindness, generosity, and compassion, letting her brother watch TV in peace (even though he “whacked me over the head with his tennis racket” the previous week) and pooling ice cream money among friends to share a sundae. 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.)