Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow; illustrated by Luisa Uribe. 2020. Published by The Innovation Press.

Brief summary: A girl has a bad first day because no one could say her name correctly. On the walk home from school, her mother explains to her daughter that names can be said like songs. She sings various names so her little girl hears them. The mother taps out the rhythm of a name as well as emphasizing where the accent goes by tapping it louder than the others. Soon, the girl becomes confident with her name and can’t wait to go back to school to share her song.

When it is time for Ms. Anderson to do the roll call, the teacher stalls trying to make sure she says the girl’s name correctly. The little girl takes the opportunity to teach her teacher and fellow classmates the song of each of their names before saying her own: Kora-Jalimuso. Soon each child sings her name back to her. “KO-rah DJAAAA-lee-MOOOO-so

Comments: This is the book I would have read to my students at the beginning of the school year when we were getting to know each other if I weren’t already retired. What a great opening to share each other’s names like Kora-Jalimuso did!

I always appreciated it when the ESL teacher gave each of us “special” teachers a list of new students including how their names were phonetically said. Many students had a hard time at first saying my name correctly until I made a poster with my name with the phonetics underneath and two red photos of Ferraris.

Author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow shares the pronunciations of the names featured in her story, Your Name is a Song.

Stick and Stones by Patricia Polacco

Sticks and Stones by Patricia Polacco; illustrated by Patricia Polacco. 2020. Two and six B pencils and acetone markers. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Younger Readers.

Brief summary: Trish is going to spend a year of junior high with her father in Michigan instead of with her mother in California. Unfortunately, she breaks out with a red rash all over her face on her first day and is given the name “Cootie” by one of the bullies. As the school year progresses, she befriends two kind and gifted students the bullies have nicknamed “Sissy Boy” who is a remarkable dancer and “Her Ugliness” who is a talented artist. They become best friends and conquer the cruel remarks together.

Comments: It was wonderful to read the author’s letter in the back telling the young readers how the three friends in the story are actually real friends and have prospered with their gifts despite the unkind words of Billy.

Patricia Polacco’s stories never fail to delight.

The Barnabus Project by The Fan Brothers

The Barnabus Project by the Fan Brothers. 2020. Graphite and colored digitally. Published by Penguin Random House.

Brief summary: Barnabus is a combo of a mouse and an elephant. He lives in a secret lab underneath the Perfect Pets store. Barnabus is one of many failed projects living in bell jars dreaming of the world above thanks to the descriptions of it by a cockroach named Pip. One day Green Rubber Suits come down poking and talking about each creature in a bell jar while putting red stamps on all of the jars…FAIL. Before, they had no idea they were failed lab projects until Pip tells them that they indeed are and that there are better versions of themselves above. The creatures are going to be recycled. Barnabus decides he wants to go up now and see that wonderful world the cockroach tells everyone. All the creatures decide to join Barnabus and their adventures begin with figuring out how to get above. What will they discover?

Comments: I love the imagination and creativity of this book. The Perfect Pets Store is hilarious. Young readers can empathize with the failed projects and the desire of the creatures wanting to escape to live freely in a new world.

The Fan Brothers never fail to share a unique and creative story.