As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
I liked the message this book was trying to convey–that we can be friends with those who are different and find common ground (regardless of what ground we were born in) and build on that.
However, the stronger (but subtler) message was that reading takes you places that you can’t afford to go to “…reading books and telling stories–even though we were right on our block–it was like we got to go everywhere” (I added punctuation for clarification).
The other lesson was that it was the gift of oral storytelling, of connecting with others, that helped Angelina connect with her classmates so that they would listen long enough to hear that she shared commonalities (though it is intimated that one has to first find common ground before being able to establish any sort of connection rather than just appreciating one another at the onset, despite their differences).
Ultimately, it seemed that Angelina only connected (at least on a one-on-one basis) with the child whose ethnic heritage most closely mirrored her own. What if she was the only Hispanic child in the class?
The constant shift in point-of-view didn’t connect me with any of the children who were more representations of different ethnic groups than unique characters who happened to be Hispanic, Asian, et cetera. The author was trying to fit too many ethnicities into the first-person slot, and it just didn’t work. It’s all the difference between a hard news article and a human interest story.
That said, the illustrations were colorful, the faces expressive, and the surroundings downright whimsical–like double exposures of portraits and landscapes. More imagery could’ve been built into the illustrations but they were well done and interesting with sharp lines, bold colors, and a profusion of patterns. I liked a ruler being used for a table and wished the author would have done more with pre-existing patterns (e.g. sheet music, chalkboards, etc).
The Day You Begin is definitely worth a second look!
Suggested activity: Grab a children’s book that has a unique setting (showing that books can take you to places you’ve never been and to those you can only imagine) and draw a map of that setting. Even this book would work; just draw a map of the school with the cafeteria and the playground surrounding it. There are many ways you can go with this geographical activity: mind maps, treasure maps, even Google maps!