The Importance of a Fresh Start: A Review of Melena’s Jubilee

Yesterday Melena forgot to put her toys away, and they set off a chain reaction that left Gramma’s friend slightly injured and Mama’s favorite vase broken. But when she wakes up, she has “a song in my heart” because all is forgiven. Surrounded by her loving family, she cleans her room and helps her mother repair the vase. Then she decides to continue her “Fresh Start Day” by forgiving her brother for hitting her the week before, helping her best friend, Helen, whose sidewalk chalk drawing was washed away in the rain, and not insisting that another friend, Gavin, pay back the dollar that he owes her. In the end, the friends pool their money and share a hot fudge sundae and the joy of being together.

Through Melena, who is African American, and her diverse friends, Zetta Elliott introduces the concept of jubilee—the forgiving of mistakes and debts—to young children. Readers can relate to the situations she presents, from what happens when one fails to put toys away to the “fresh start” that comes to sidewalks and gardens after a hard rain. The Author’s Note connects personal experiences of fresh starts to the significance of Jubilee in the lives of enslaved and emancipated African Americans in the nineteenth century, making this book an excellent choice for elementary school teachers and librarians seeking stories that introduce concepts in social studies. Aaron Boyd’s colorful, realistic illustrations express the love of family and bonds of friendship conveyed in the text of Melena’s Jubilee.

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