By Holly Johnson, University of Cincinnati and Marilyn Carpenter, Professor Emeritus, Eastern Washington University
In the third MYTYT of April, Holly and Marilyn reflect on kindness through the lens of different picturebooks. This week, they read award-winning Jacqueline Woodson’s newest picturebook, The Day You Begin, which was illustrated by Rafael López. They also consider the order of this month’s text set and how to present these stories to a class.
The Day You Begin follows a a diverse group of kids who feel alone and isolated, whether it’s because of the what they eat for lunch or how they talk or dress. She takes the differences that make people feel like outsiders and shows the power in sharing stories, which allows the characters and readers to say, “me, too.” Rafael López continues the story with bright colors that showcase hope and diversity.
HOLLY: Another wonderful picturebook that leads readers to think about a child’s alienation and lack of connection. Then, because of an act of courage, a young girl begins to tell her story. This is just a great follow up book to last week’s, The Day War Came (Davies, 2018)!
I really like the second-person narrative, because it causes the reader to think about actions within the book. Perhaps we all need to put ourselves into the characters’ shoes, in this book and other books as well. After all, books represent realities in the world or within people, and maybe it’s time for us to expand our thinking to be more inclusive of others and our differences. We realize our similarities when we are open-minded and open-hearted, which allows others to tell their stories. It also allows each of us to share our stories! The pattern across these books is very interesting and almost tutorial (in a good way)! As many seem to look for ways to alienate one another, perhaps we can learn from the three books we have highlighted so far. What do you think, Marilyn?
MARILYN: I agree this book is an excellent follow-up to The Day War Came. After last week’s discussion, I thought about the order we read these books and what for age each they might be appropriate. I think next week’s book, I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness, is a more age-appropriate book for young children than The Day War Came. In fact, as I consider the books in this text set, I would read them aloud in a different order than we have discussed them. In sharing the books in this set with classes of kindergarteners through third-grade students, I would start with I Walk with Vanessa, move on to this Woodson title, then to Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot’s World War II Story. I would then carefully consider how The Day War Came would affect my students. If such a story were to be traumatic or triggering for the students, I would reserve it for teachers to read it aloud to older students. In that case, I would carefully consider adding one or more of the additional books we suggested last week.
HOLLY: Interesting, Marilyn. As I consider our conversations and how I work with older students, I would use all the books with older students in the order we discussed them. It starts with an overview of historical context, and then we get an intimate view of war’s devastating consequences experienced by those “on the ground.” I would then read The Day You Begin to suggest how to circumvent the alienation, and even violence, seen when we don’t tell each other our stories or listen when others do tell their stories. Next week’s picturebook, I Walk with Vanessa, demonstrates the possible outcome of reading the other three books. I want to see people who know about war and the destruction in others’ lives walking with others. And perhaps, just perhaps, we wouldn’t be so willing to think of war as the alternative. I might be dreaming, however.
MARILYN: Woodson poetically describes all the ways we are different from each other and how we are also alike. The author ends with these words:
This is the day you begin / to find places inside / your laughter and your lunches / your books, your travel and your stories / where every new friend has something / a little like you—and something else/ so fabulously not quite like you /at all.
Here is a path to valuing ourselves and our differences. Rafael López’s expressive illustrations expand childrens’ view of how to appreciate their uniqueness as well as the qualities that connect them with others.
Title: The Day You Begin
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: Rafael López
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication Date: August 28, 2018