Created: 1st July, 2020

The Day You Begin

Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: Rafael López
Publisher: Penguin USA

Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical language takes us into a world in which being different from the other people you meet, being the only one with your skin, your clothes, your hair, your language and your experiences can be both frightening and lonely, but ultimately is something to be celebrated; that once you are able to share your story, your words, your song, “the world opens itself up” and you can find the places “where every new friend has something a little like you – and something else so fabulously not like you at all.”

Rafael López’s dazzling illustrations fill every page with colour and life and movement, effortlessly reflecting the positive finish of the story. The classroom shared by the children is filled with swirls of colour, glowing lights, blooming flowers and soaring birds, yet can simultaneously capture the loneliness and isolation of the figure who is struggling to feel as though they belong – while a group of children shout and swing and play on one side of the spread under a canopy of brilliant green, yellow and orange leaves, at the opposite end of the image one boy watches and leans against a fading autumnal tree under a greying sky.

This is a book which recognises and acknowledges the harder days and the more difficult emotions, but ultimately finds reason within its young people to be optimistic and hopeful for the future we share together. It is a book bursting with the possibilities of what storytelling can do.