Review: Start the Day

Start the Day

by Vicki L. Weber, illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez

Apples & Honey (imprint of Behrman House), 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Jeff Gottesfeld

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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Reviewer Jeff Gottesfeld writes for page, stage, and screen. His current focus is picture book texts for children. His other picture books are The Tree in the Courtyard (Knopf, 2016), illustrated by Peter McCarty, No Steps Behind (Creston, 2020), illustrated by Shiella Witanto, Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Candlewick Press, 2021), illustrated by Matt Tavares, and The Christmas Mitzvah (Creston, 2021), illustrated by Michelle Agatha. Upcoming is We All Serve for Candlewick, about the special lives and challenges of military kids. Born in Manhattan and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, he currently lives in Los Angeles. Visit him at