You Are A Beautiful Beginning by Nina Laden, illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley


You Are a Beautiful Beginning
illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley
Review Copy from Roaring Brook Press
It is rare that I like a picture book that tells readers how loved, special, brave [insert affirming adjective here] they are, but Nina Laden has a way with this kind of story (see below for more). With You Are A Beautiful Beginning, Laden has written a rhyming text that will help readers cope with challenges and dark days by gently pointing them toward love for themselves, empathy for others and a positive mindset. Garrity-Riley's enchanting illustrations bring Laden's encouragements to life with a determined child and her plan to, with the collaboration of friends, create a fort in the woods where they welcome a crew of magical creatures.

The protagonist's venture starts in her room, collecting her ideas and plans. Putting on her rain slicker and boots, sketchbook in hand, she heads out the door - "It's not how far you traveled. / It is the journey that you took." As she and her two friends head into nature, planning, Laden tells readers, "It is not creating a masterpiece. /  It is finding the courage to start." As they gather, regroup, plan some more and build, Laden reminds readers, "It is now knowing all the answers. / It is listening to what others have to say. // It is not about winning the game. It's having fun while you play. // It's not making the most friends. / It's loving the one who is there." 

Laden encourages readers to share, help others to grow and look for light in the darkness, assuring them that "It is not being a hero. / It is being part of a team. // It is not putting up walls. / It is about building a dream," As night falls and the friends head home, Laden closes out her book with these wonderful words, "It is not wishing to be different. / It is learning to love being you. // It is not the end of your story. It is a beautiful beginning, too."

Garrity-Riley brings a charming story to the page with her illustrations, giving root to Laden's positive, uplifting poem, deepening the meaning and power of her words.

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