Review: The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illus. by Rafael López
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. Thank you!
Publication: August 28, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Young Readers Group
National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.
There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a pl ace where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.
Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
“There will be times when the world feels like a place that you’re standing all the way outside of…And all that stands beside you is your own brave self…”
Acclaimed author and National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López come together to bring readers the supremely beautiful and notable picture book The Day You Begin.
“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you. Maybe it will be your skin, your clothes, or the curl of your hair.” The opening of The Day You Begin follows a young student as they open the door of a classroom and carefully peer in. Readers then follow a few different children as they each experience their own feelings of loneliness, fear or uncertainty whether due to: the “beautiful language of the country you left behind” that no one understands and laughs at; summer “days spent at home caring for your little sister” while other classmates flew around the world for exciting holidays; or sitting down with a lunch of kimchi, meat and rice that causes “even your own friend…[to] wrinkle her nose”. Woodson then beautifully goes back to the book’s opening sentence with an addition: “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you until the day you begin to share your stories“. Readers see the student from the opening pages return, voice gaining strength as she shares the stories of her summer and finds that in sharing stories “the world opens itself up a little wider to make space”, hopefully allowing us to connect, feel less alone and build friendships. The Day You Begin is a marvelous picture book that touches upon topics regarding facing fears, finding bravery, the need for empathy, as well as the significance and magical power in what sharing our own stories can lead to.
Overall, a profoundly thoughtful, affecting and all-around gorgeous read that has already received multiple starred reviews and favorable reviews. Woodson is an incredible wordsmith and her elegant yet wholly approachable poetic manner of writing makes The Day You Begin a read that could easily be shared and appreciated by various ages. Rafael López’s art is simply beautiful; such a match for Woodson’s writing, so radiant, bringing such feeling and vibrancy to both contemplative and hopeful passages. The Day You Begin is an exemplary pick for reading aloud or sharing for back-to-school season in classrooms or Kindergarten-and-up storytimes- though it truly would be a welcome and meaningful read to visit or revisit any time of the year.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.