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The Day You Begin

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National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpre Illustrator Award winner Rafael Lopez 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 place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical text and Rafael Lopez'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.

Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

32 pages, Hardcover

First published August 28, 2018

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About the author

Jacqueline Woodson

85 books8,411 followers
I used to say I’d be a teacher or a lawyer or a hairdresser when I grew up but even as I said these things, I knew what made me happiest was writing.

I wrote on everything and everywhere. I remember my uncle catching me writing my name in graffiti on the side of a building. (It was not pretty for me when my mother found out.) I wrote on paper bags and my shoes and denim binders. I chalked stories across sidewalks and penciled tiny tales in notebook margins. I loved and still love watching words flower into sentences and sentences blossom into stories.

I also told a lot of stories as a child. Not “Once upon a time” stories but basically, outright lies. I loved lying and getting away with it! There was something about telling the lie-story and seeing your friends’ eyes grow wide with wonder. Of course I got in trouble for lying but I didn’t stop until fifth grade.

That year, I wrote a story and my teacher said “This is really good.” Before that I had written a poem about Martin Luther King that was, I guess, so good no one believed I wrote it. After lots of brouhaha, it was believed finally that I had indeed penned the poem which went on to win me a Scrabble game and local acclaim. So by the time the story rolled around and the words “This is really good” came out of the otherwise down-turned lips of my fifth grade teacher, I was well on my way to understanding that a lie on the page was a whole different animal — one that won you prizes and got surly teachers to smile. A lie on the page meant lots of independent time to create your stories and the freedom to sit hunched over the pages of your notebook without people thinking you were strange.

Lots and lots of books later, I am still surprised when I walk into a bookstore and see my name on a book’s binder. Sometimes, when I’m sitting at my desk for long hours and nothing’s coming to me, I remember my fifth grade teacher, the way her eyes lit up when she said “This is really good.” The way, I — the skinny girl in the back of the classroom who was always getting into trouble for talking or missed homework assignments — sat up a little straighter, folded my hands on the desks, smiled and began to believe in me.

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5 stars
6,746 (61%)
4 stars
2,873 (26%)
3 stars
990 (8%)
2 stars
267 (2%)
1 star
141 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,683 reviews
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
November 15, 2018
Each year my family reads all the Goodreads-award-nominated picture books. This is book #15 (of 20) of 2018, a book written by a well-known and lauded author, illustrated by Rafael Lopez. Lyra takes the lead in the defense of this book, and I take the prosecution.

Lyra (11): 4.5 stars. I love how the pictures show both sides of the world. I like how it shows that we're all different, but in the end we're all very similar.

Hank (12): 4.5 stars. Lyra is totally right!

Harry (13): 3 stars. I don't know how the title connects with this book.

Tara: 3.5 stars. Pretty good.

Dave: 3 stars. A didactic and bland speech made by a famous author to children everywhere. The speech is about accepting your own difference. When you do that, then things really begin for you. Okay, but it all feels flat and unoriginal to me. Though maybe I have been reading too many picture books lately? But I do like the colorful art of Lopez. 2 stars + an extra star for the art.
Profile Image for Allison.
610 reviews28 followers
September 17, 2018
Another critical darling that didn't impress me. I've loved Jacqueline Woodson's previous picture books, but this one I did not like much. The language is poetic. The illustrations are nice. But it's very message-y. And it felt long. But the main problem I have with it is the way the negative feelings of otherness and inferiority dominate the book. It's 90% negative (I'm embarrassed, I don't feel as good as everyone else), and 10% positive (diversity is wonderful, everyone is unique). So it's the negative emotion that made the lasting impact. And maybe this is silly or overprotective, but I wouldn't want to introduce a feeling of inferiority to a child who never thought his lunch was weird (or something else).

The last line is great: "every new friend has something a little like you--and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all." Love that. I wish there had been more of that and less "There will be times when..." no is like you, people make fun of you, your voice is small, your lunch is strange, and no one wants you on their team.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,362 reviews531 followers
March 31, 2022
One of my favorite books to share with the Kinders as they start a new school year. I have been sending this title to schools ever since I first discovered it. If you have enjoyedThe Year We Learned to Fly which was just released, be sure to check this one out as well. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
2,059 reviews212 followers
June 15, 2020
The little girl in me wishes someone had read this very book to me when I was starting out on the scary adventures that loomed large in my life. The mother in me wishes I had this book in hand when I settled my bright-eyed crew down for their night read back in the very disconcerting days of the 80's. It would have helped, I just know it.

Today in our 'grandma reads' session, The Day You Begin was on the list, and it is so good, I had to work hard not to get misty and interrupt the magic. When I did my alone read-through earlier, I teared up. It is admirable how the illustrations and the sweet words comfort - without "fixing" or requiring a rescuing change to provide it. Each reader and listener is given that golden nugget, that they themselves, within their very own person, have what it takes to get them through anything. What a powerful message! The way to break down walls is to simply start sharing their story. . . .a willingness to reach out, bridge the gap, step through, risk a little, just start. . .so, so powerful.

All of us voted a clear 5 stars on this one. One little voice echoed, "I really liked that book." I love the zoom sessions that keep me connected, but I gotta say I miss hugs in these COVID19 days.
Profile Image for Danielle.
Author 2 books229 followers
October 21, 2018
Wow. Powerful and perfect. A beautifully illustrated and told story of encouragement and empowerment for kids who feel different from others, one that urges them to tell their stories and lift their voices.
Profile Image for Ana Maria.
174 reviews30 followers
October 30, 2020
Un mensaje demasiado certero para el alma y el corazón. Si no sales de él, llevándolo en el corazón es probable que te fallemos como sociedad.
Profile Image for Scottsdale Public Library.
3,225 reviews214 followers
January 22, 2021
I loved this picture book, which was inspired by a poem in Woodson's award winning memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming. She takes a theme of feeling alienated because of one's differences, and slowly evolves the theme toward embracing how those differences make you unique.
Highly recommend this, as it can open the door for great discussions. -Sara Z.

An exceptional look at how it feels to be different, yet the same in some ways. This book is a wonderful way to introduce kids to how varied cultures can make the world a much more interesting place and how we can all fit together. - Jen K.
Profile Image for Sarah.
353 reviews95 followers
December 31, 2020
I think every parent needs to read this book with their young children. It touches on the ironically common experience of being different and finding the courage to tell your own story. Really, really lovely.
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,827 reviews286 followers
February 28, 2023
It's not easy to impress me.

I was an elementary school librarian for years and years. I've been reading books nominated for the Cybils Awards for eleven of those years.

I've read a lot of good books.

The Day You Begin impressed me.

It's the simple story, told in unrhymed verse, of children who feel like they don't belong and who find connection in the little things.

I have loved Jacqueline Woodson for so many reasons, for her poetic words, for her truth, for her bravery. And now, with this book, I have a new reason to love her.
Profile Image for Tanesha.
312 reviews
May 7, 2018
Wonderful, wonderful story, and the illustrations are simply breathtaking. My 7 yr. old enjoyed this so much, and we had a great discussion about the meaning behind the storyline as we read it together. We'll definitely read this many times. Great bedtime and classroom read!!
Profile Image for Sara the Librarian.
748 reviews327 followers
February 20, 2019
I'm always kicking myself for not discovering a wonderful author sooner as if the world isn't full of amazing authors I will never read or even hear about. Better I think to count my blessings when I'm lucky enough to find someone so gifted and so brave and so brightly burning who wants to share their work with me.

The story here is one that every single child (or adult for that matter) can relate to. That moment when you walk into the room or the school or the playground or the office and nothing and noone is familiar. All your confidence vanishes and all you can think about are all the ways you are nothing like the other people in the room. All you can see is what sets you apart. The way you look, the way you sound, the way your clothes look, the food you brought for lunch, all those things that define you are now making you feel small and afraid and very alone.

"The Day You Begin" is about embracing all those things that make you stand out no matter what they are. The titular beginning is that moment of acceptance of self that can turn into true confidence and self love when you begin to see that different doesn't have to mean hateful or ugly or seperate.

I can't think of a better lesson to teach a child in a world gone as haywire as ours has.

My youngest son loved this book. It practically begs to be read aloud. There's a wonderful, dark, meandering rhythm to it that makes it just sort of flow out of your mouth as you read. This makes sense given that the author, the quietly astounding and deservedly award winning Jacqueline Woodson, specializes in children's and YA books written in verse. We were both enraptured with the illustrations by Rafael Lopez. They're bright and warm, they made me think of pictures drawn on the sidewalk in chalk or subway mosaics. Every picture is infused with images of growth and expansion, flowers opening up, water flowing, music notes traveling. It's very clear, and believe me this doesn't happen often, that author and artist were perfectly in synch here.

So I'm perfectly okay with meeting Ms. Woodson this way. I look forward with great expectation to the places she'll take me in the years to come.
Profile Image for Mid-Continent Public Library.
584 reviews188 followers
August 25, 2022
One of my favorite books to share with the Kinders as they start a new school year. I have been sending this title to schools ever since I first discovered it. If you have enjoyed The Year We Learned to Fly which was just released, be sure to check this one out as well. Highly recommended! *Last review by Darla from Red Bridge*
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,695 followers
June 4, 2020
Every child of colour - and every reader of colour, tbh - needs to read this.

Incredibly affirming and loving, The Day You Begin celebrates how our differences - and the things that we share - can bring us together.
Profile Image for Stephanie Anze.
657 reviews112 followers
November 9, 2018
"....where every new friend has something a little like you- and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all."

In 'The Day You Begin' Jaqueline Woodson delivers a timely, impactful, universal and beautiful message. When current times are so overwhelmingly divisive and full of hate, we need to be reminded that we are better together than apart. The illustrations perfectly flow with the tone and theme of the book: inclusion and mutual respect. The prose is lyrical and well executed (I have read another work by Woodson before but it was more contemporary). This is a great children's book but I would like to put one in the hands of adults for a change. Seems like we need now, more than ever, to change our ways.

On a separate note, I love exploring the selection of children's books nominated as the best of the year. Will seek other titles as well.

1,037 reviews116 followers
October 10, 2018
This is a very sweet children’s book which would be great for kids who feel different from their peers in some way. It discusses what it can be like to feel like you’re different and like you’re an outsider, and how friendships can form through finding commonalities.
Profile Image for Annie ⚜️.
501 reviews16 followers
April 28, 2019
3.5 stars. The illustrations were beautifully magical so I rounded up. I wanted to like this more than I did. It spent an inordinate amount of time on the parts where the children feel different and alone and it made me a little sad for the children that are different. When we finally come to the part where we learn how to deal and grow from it it felt too far in the hole to pull it back up.
Profile Image for Richie Partington.
1,084 reviews128 followers
July 18, 2018
Richie’s Picks: THE DAY YOU BEGIN by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López, ill., Nancy Paulsen Books, August 2018, 32p., ISBN: 978-0-399-24653-1

“Be yourself.
Free yourself.”
-- Graham Nash (1971)

“There will be times when the words don’t come.
Your own voice, once huge, now smaller
when the teacher asks What did you do last summer?

We went to France, Chayla says.

These shells came from a beach in Maine.
A boy named Jonathan holds out a jar
filled with tiny shells so fragile,
they look like they’ll turn to dust
in your own untraveled hands.

My whole family went to India.
South Carolina!
Each souvenir a small triumph
of a journey.
Their travels going on and on.

And as you stand in front of that room, you can only remember
how the heat waved
as it lifted off the curb,
and your days spent at home
caring for your little sister,
who made you laugh out loud and hugged you hard
at naptime. You can only remember the books you kept on reading
long after she had fallen
to sleep.

And in that room, where no one else is quite like you, you’ll look down
at your own empty hands and wonder What good is this
when other students were flying
and sailing and
going somewhere.”

It’s easy to focus on our differences, whether they relate to race, class, gender, religion, ethnicity, clothing, body size and shape, hair color and texture, how many generations our families have been in America, or how many parents of what sexes are at home. The alternative to obsessing about our differences is to shine a light on our similarities and connections.

THE DAY YOU BEGIN is about feeling different, fearing the differences, but finding one’s own voice. By speaking our truths, we become part of the chorus of humanity..

In the classroom where the story is set, students laugh at an immigrant classmate for his language differences. They turn up their noses at an Asian meal that another classmate has brought for lunch. And they exclude another classmate from a game at recess because of his ability differences.

It’s not surprising that Angelina, the girl who didn’t get to travel anywhere and spent the summer taking care of her little sister, fears speaking up in front of the class. But, as she learns, “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you until the day you being to share your stories.”

The hurt of being laughed at, scorned, or excluded can stay with us, no matter how well things go for us in the long run. Many of us have vivid memories of being treated in such a manner even when, as in my case, we recall incidents that took place half a century ago.

There are plenty of books for young people of various ages in which characters deal with such conflicts. Some feature animal characters. But it is rare to encounter a book like this, one that tackles these issues head-on. That’s why THE DAY YOU BEGIN is such an important picture book, one that could make a real difference in a child’s life, and a perfect choice for a first-day-of-school read.

I hope that THE DAY YOU BEGIN encourages children to speak up and share their stories. But I also hope that it encourages empathic young people to stand up for their belittled peers. When people stand up for others, a community gets stronger. I still wonder why a certain popular, athletic, junior high classmate of mine befriended and included me despite our differences. He doesn’t know it, but he’s always been a hero to me.

Rafael López’s illustrations soar! They’re a combination of acrylic paint on wood, pen and ink, and watercolors combined digitally in Photoshop. Incorporated into the illustrations of a doorway. a tree, and a lunchroom table are a measuring ruler. How, we often wonder, do we measure up?

THE DAY YOU BEGIN gave me joy to read and to look at. I encourage you to share that joy.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com
Profile Image for Edie.
468 reviews14 followers
May 20, 2018
With careful and evocative words, Woodson addresses a child's sense of being excluded, for any number of reasons, race, hair style, lunch ingredients, athletic ability, family life-style. More than half the book gives examples of not being like anyone else and I can picture young readers/listeners nodding their heads, it has happened to almost all of us. But then, there are words of encouragement, "your own brave self", "steady as steel" and when you do find your voice, you are reminded that "the world opens itself a little wider to make some space for you". It doesn't get more realistically affirming than that. And the illustrations, full of bring colors, lots of flowers and swirls, let's us know all the way through that this is going to be a joyful book, moving toward inclusion. A book for everyone.
Profile Image for Julie.
1,020 reviews18 followers
July 12, 2018
I had a chance to read this book at NErDCampMI and I am so happy I did! What an important book to have in my library. A look at how we feel when we don’t fit in, but also how important it is to be who we are, too. I can’t wait to share this book with teachers and students.
Profile Image for Rebecca Caufman.
2,185 reviews2 followers
September 19, 2018
This book celebrates differences and the importance of sharing YOUR personal story in order to let others in to your world and appreciate who YOU are.
Profile Image for Hilda.
1,086 reviews134 followers
July 19, 2019
There will be times when you walk into a room and no one is quite like you. Maybe it will be your skin, your clothes, or the curl of your hair.

This book was amazing. I did not have my student's write about it. We discussed when we felt different and it was so quiet but then slowly, so slowly, they started to share stories and it was magical. I loved this book so much and I loved the time we shared after read aloud and I need more books like this. It was so good. So very good. A great way to talk about differences and similarities but also times we felt like we didn't belong.

There will be times when the lunch your mother packed for you is too strange or too unfamiliar for others to love as you do.

Seriously, this book was beautifully written and illustrated. Its a gem and I'm so happy to have it in my classroom library for my students to read. I hope they know how much I love their differences and feel like they belong in our classroom.
Profile Image for Earl.
3,511 reviews39 followers
May 24, 2021
With lyrical text and vibrant art, The Day You Begin is a celebration of connection with others once you muster up the courage to set things in motion. This picture book captures perfectly the sense of not belonging we've all felt at one point or another in our lives (at school or at an unfamiliar environment) and how we then found ourselves being part of something special (with family, friends, or an entire community.) It's a lesson we need to constantly re-learn.
Profile Image for Katharine.
217 reviews42 followers
January 1, 2019
5+ stars. Everyone--child and adult--needs to read this. It will resonate with at least some small part of you. Wonderful book; one I want to hug and keep close to my heart.
Profile Image for Elizabeth A.
1,823 reviews108 followers
October 15, 2018
First line: There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.

Is there anyone who has not felt that exact way at some point in their lives?

This picture book just makes me happy. I love the message of being brave and taking the first steps into a place where no one knows you, or a place where you stick out because you are different in some way - maybe the color of your skin, or the curls in your hair, or the food your Mom packed for your lunch.

The text is lovely and supportive of such challenges, but it's the art in this one that made me smile on each and every page. Simply delightful. Whether big or small, this is a wonderful reminder to reach out and share our stories with each other.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,116 reviews186 followers
February 19, 2019
Based upon a poem in her award-winning memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming , author Jacqueline Woodson explores how it feels to be different from one's peers in this lovely picture-book. "There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you," the text begins, going on to describe the ways one might be different, from personal appearance to food eaten, names and languages spoken to family background and summer activities. Depicting the feeling of being a fish out of water with sympathy, the narrative concludes with the idea that through communication and sharing, one discovers that there are many things we have in common with those around us, just as there are things that set us apart...

I always love Woodson's picture-books, from Each Kindness to Coming on Home Soon . They are so beautifully written, so thought-provoking, and so poignant and joyful by turns. The Day You Begin is all of those things, and although it probably doesn't rank as one of my favorites - there are some of Woodson's books that I simply can't read without a lump in my throat - it is outstanding. I appreciated the various themes explored in the text, and I absolutely loved the accompanying mixed media artwork by the talented Rafael López. His color palette is delightful, and the diverse range of characters he depicts are all so expressive, perfectly capturing the feeling evoked by the text on that page. Recommended to Jacqueline Woodson fans, Rafael López admirers, and anyone looking for children's stories about our differences and commonalities.
August 14, 2020
Ages: 4-8

The Day You Begin is the sweet story of a young girl named Angelina. She is anxious about meeting her new classmates.

At first Angelina, is apprehensive because she notices all the differences between her fellow classmates. They have different skin colors, hair, eat different foods, come from different countries, have different experiences…
Until, Rigoberto, from Venezuela, points out she has the same name as his sister.
Then, we can learn about each other’s differences and still be friends with many similarities.
Awards/Recognitions: New York Times Bestseller
This author has won numerous prestigious award
Find more children's books that support diversity and tolerance in my post https://www.teacher-librarian-forlife...
Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,683 reviews

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