Day for Rememberin’ : Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day
by Henderson, Leah; Cooper, Floyd (ILT)

A tribute to the lesser-known story of America's first Memorial Day evocatively depicts the experiences of a young boy who dresses up in his best clothes and joins his family in their Charleston community's activities to honor fallen Civil War soldiers. Illustrations.

Leah Henderson writes for young readers of all ages, and her books have been named a Children&;s Africana Book Awards Notable and a Bank Street Best Book. Leah holds an MFA in writing and is on the faculty of Spalding University&;s graduate writing program. She resides in Washington, D.C. Floyd Cooper has received a Coretta Scott King Award and three Coretta Scott King Honors for his illustrations. Mr. Cooper received a degree in fine arts from the University of Oklahoma. He lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, with his wife and children.

The origins of Memorial Day have roots in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Henderson's historical picture book convincingly posits that the first such holiday was held on May 1, 1865, at the Washington Race Course in Charleston, South Carolina, where Union soldiers were buried when the racetrack operated as a Confederate prison camp. Remembering the soldiers and fixing up the grave sites went hand in hand, and this effort was led by formerly enslaved people, including schoolchildren, as well as abolitionists. The moving story, as seen through the eyes of a newly freed boy watching his father and others work hard in anticipation of memorial festivities, is enhanced beautifully by Cooper's illustrations, which convey determination as the men and boy work hard. On Memorial Day itself, faces full of pride are shown singing, praying, and celebrating in honor of those who lost their lives. The palette of sun gold, sky blue, dusty browns, and greens gives the pages a rooted, old-fashioned feel. A perfect book for enhancing collections celebrating national holidays and for adding to those honoring emancipation. Grades K-3. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

A community of former slaves honors the fallen heroes who made them free. It's 1865, and White people are "mad 'cause we aren't enslaved no more" (a fantastic burn!). Eli wants to follow his father to his work, but his parents are adamant that he take advantage of the education he is now entitled to and go to school. But finally, one day is so special that he gets to follow his father to work. The adult men are digging and building at the old Charleston racecourse, used as a prison for Union soldiers during the war, while Eli and the other children paint a picket fence. Finally, there's a parade that culminates in sermons, songs, and laying flowers at the graves of Union soldiers buried at the former track, both Black and White. It's Decoration Day, which will later become today's Memorial Day. Cooper's illustrations are soft and gentle, his muted color palette with many yellows, browns, and tans working well to convey the dusty workplace and the toil it takes to build a memorial site. His customary technique lends a gauzy haze to the proceedings. Henderson's choice to show the development of this day of remembrance from the perspective of a child involved in the literal work required to build it gives the story weight and meaning. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 68% of actual size.) A treasure. (author's note, timeline, notes) (Picture book. 6-10) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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