A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Different races, nationalities, and backgrounds represented. Boy's name Rigoberto, country Venezuela. Other locations mentioned: France, Maine, India, Spain, South Carolina. Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower. Scarf from India. Traditional Korean meal pictured and mention of kimchi. Information that "rice is the most popular food in the world."
You can find your voice even when others seem to have advantages or might be excluding you. You can find commonalities with people and also learn to value the things about you that are different and special. When people are friends they can enjoy both their differences and their similarities.
Positive Role Models
The kids pictured, of different races and backgrounds, have relatable emotions -- feeling insecure or excluded -- but find ways to connect, identify with others. Rigoberto's teacher appreciates his name, helps him feel good about it. The girl who's not well traveled, and spent the summer in the city caring for her sister, realizes her experiences have value, too, and proudly reports them to the class. Kids are shown reading books. Kids bridge the gaps and befriend each other.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Day You Begin is by celebrated author Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming), who's won just about every medal or award available to kids' book writers, and served as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Illustrator Rafael López (Drum Dream Girl) has also garnered numerous awards. Woodson's books are noted for tackling serious issues with a sensitive touch, and in this book, she imagines a variety of kids of different races and backgrounds who might feel excluded or less than. The text addresses the kids directly as "you," offering words of encouragement as well as a scenario in which some of the characters end up becoming friends. This book is also available in Spanish as El Dia en Que Descubres Quien Eres.
Is It Any Good?
This sensitive and emotionally astute book about kids feeling like outsiders addresses kids directly, like welcome advice from a trusted elder, encouraging kids to "share your stories." In The Day You Begin, the prose is poetic but accessible. A teacher pronounces a boy's name "so soft and beautifully that your name and homeland sound like flowers blooming the first bright notes of a song." A girl admires "a jar filled with tiny shells so fragile, they look like they'll turn to dust in your own untraveled hands." Yet the text is never out of reach, and the situations are carefully chosen to be ones kids will relate to -- for instance, not getting picked for a team or hesitating to share in class.
The illustrations by Rafael López fit the text perfectly and are just as welcoming. The art depicts and celebrates kids of different races. On many pages, López also includes a looming measuring stick, which seems to represent the way kids feel they measure up or not. This very inviting art extends a friendly hand just as the kids in the story do.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.