Sometimes important historical events remain only in fragmentary records. Thank goodness for historical fiction, which lets us see what those records mean in real human lives. Inspired by the Freedmen Bureau’s Cohabitation List of 1866, Lyons has constructed a story that shows the trauma slavery inflicted on black marriages and the joy with which couples embraced the chance to have their marriage declared legal at the end of the Civil War. We watch through the eyes of a young girl, Ellen, as her parents reminisce about jumping the broom and her satisfaction as she sees their relationship declared legitimate by the government. Daniel Minter’s print block illustrations are perfect for this story.

Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter. GP Putnam: 2012.