The Day You Begin (Jacqueline Woodson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Day You Begin, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael López, a beautiful and moving ode to the courage it takes to be oneself.

In life, there will be places that you go where you are different. Places where no one else has your hair, or your skin tone, or speaks your language. Places where the food you grew up with is suddenly “too weird”, or other people will not pick you to play with them. Places where you may not have as much money. Places where they might whisper about you, or say mean things because you are different from them. These places can be scary and lonely, and you may be tempted to think “what does my life matter?” – but it does. You are only a fraction of what you will be, of all that you will learn and do and see. And this place is but a few notes in the symphony of your life. So summon your courage, and be yourself, differences and all – you never know who might be different just like you…

Absolutely gorgeous. This book gets to the nitty-gritty of being “other”, looking at all-too-familiar ways that children can marginalized or ostracized based on race or culture or economic status or simply that, sometimes, kids can be quite mean. It also subtly yet powerfully touches on the feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness this can invoke, and validating them. And it encourages kids to soldier through, but not at the sacrifice of who they are. In a time in which self-harm and suicides due to bullying is on the rise, and we face an often terrifying attitude about minorities, this is a vital message for vulnerable young minds. The art is bursting with color and light, serving to brighten a sometimes dark theme, and is just perfect in tone. The length was great and JJ and I both loved it. This should be read to every single child, to show that it’s always been our differences that make us great. Baby Bookworm approved!