Sometimes historical fiction is the closest we can get to the past. In an “Author’s Note,” Angela Johnson explains the limitations she was under in writing about the day slaves were emancipated:

I’d love to know how my great-grandparents celebrated when told they were free. But that tale has been lost to time, so I can only hope that this one will do.

In her tender, lyrical text (accompanied by beautiful watercolor illustrations), Johnson shows us the day, morning to night, when slaves far from the battle line received word that they were free. The text doesn’t overclaim, showing how in emancipation how daily life would remain full of work and demands but would nonetheless be “all different.”

Once in a while, historical fiction is the closest to nonfiction we’ll ever get.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated to E. B. Lewis. Simon & Schuster: 2014.