Review: Start the Day
Start the Day
by Vicki L. Weber, illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez
Apples & Honey (imprint of Behrman House), 2022
The very best time for kids to learn nearly anything is when they are young. This is especially true when it comes to learning a second language. Vicki L. Weber's START THE DAY, with inviting illustrations by Shirley Ng-Benitez, puts this principle to work with the Hebrew phrase for "Good morning," *boker tov.* Her board book for the youngest children is part of a series from Apples & Honey Press that includes the havdalah-centered A NEW WEEK, SHABBAT SHALOM, and more. Weber's rhyming text is simple enough for any toddler to grasp -- "good morning all, it's time to rise / and rub the sleep from rested eyes" -- and uncommonly active. Each page will give the young person being read to the opportunity to do something. They can touch their noses, or wiggle their toes. The words *boker tov* enter the text at the very end, when two children head out to start their day, trailed by an adorable dog, and under the gaze of a friendly bird. Ng-Benitez's art depicts happy children of many racial and ethnic backgrounds, and to her credit, not all of them are skinny. Both the text and the art are child-centered and child-affirming. We see just the arms and part of the body of the only grownup. There's even a child wearing a T-shirt that says Boker Tov on it in transliteration; it might have been helpful had there been another shirt with the same phrase in Hebrew. Still, it's hard not to imagine a parent or relative waking up their child with the words "Boker Tov!" after they read this book together. And that is a very good thing.
I'm not enough of an historian to know whether a board book has ever garnered Sydney Taylor attention, but this series from Apples & Honey, and specifically START THE DAY, meet the criteria for notice. The Jewish content is presented inclusively and gently -- there's just so much that can be done for this age range, and with the brevity that a board book requires. I particularly like the broad range of children depicted here. Kids will easily find mirrors in the artwork, which should make the book attractive for children and parents alike.
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