8 by Eight
International Celebrate Your Name Week is the first full week each March. Celebrating our names is all about celebrating ourselves, our place in history, and our individual stories. As such, on this month's 8 by Eight List you will find several books celebrating names, some celebrating family generations, and one stunning book about finding your unique place in the world.
In The Name Jar, Unhei is starting a new school. The kids on the bus make fun of her name so she decides to pick a new one. Her classmates make suggestions in the name jar on her desk. As she thinks about her name, where she comes from and who she is, Unhei ultimately accepts that her name has so much meaning and it connects her to home. She decides to keep and celebrate her own name: Unhei (grace).
In Keven Henkes's Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum loves her name; the way it looks the way it sounds. On the first day of school, her classmates make fun of her. Her name is too long. She's named after a flower. Enter the music teacher, Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle who similarly has a long name and is also named after a flower. Chrysanthemum is delighted and now the envy of her classmates who all want flower names.
Jack (Not Jackie) is the story of two siblings: Susan and Jackie. At first Susan is excited to have a little sister, who has the best giggle. Susan has great expectations of all the adventures they will have togeher. Growing up, Jackie has other ideas. Not happy with the pink birthday dress, Jackie instead picks Daddy's hat and vest. Finally old enough to talk, Jackie identifies as Jack. Susan doesn't quite know what to make of the situation, although the parents are supportive and understanding. Ultimately Susan recognizes that everything she loves about Jackie is true for Jack. She can have grand adventures with her brother Jack, who by the way, has the best giggle.
A classic book about names is Mem Fox's Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. Wilfred lives next to a nursing home and particularly connects with Miss Nancy Alison Delecourt Cooper, who also has four names. Like other books on this list, the intergenerational component is an important conversation starter for kids to learn context, history, and valuing the stories we carry.
Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal is a 2019 Caldecott Honor book. Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela has a long name and she's not sure she likes it. Her dad tells her the story of each ancestor who contributed their name to hers and she starts to understand how and where she fits in her family. This stunning book is multi-layered. Spend time pouring over the fascinating illustrations. Encourage kids to learn their history and share their story.
Continuing a celebration of family history, Drawn Together is a visually fascinating book about bridging language divides within the family. In a sequence of graphic novel panels, the unnamed main character is clearly not excited about spending the afternoon with a grandfather that he does not understand. Art becomes the bridge as the two draw stories together forging a bond stronger than words. Likewise Mango, Abuela, and Me is a story about a girl and her grandmother who have difficulties with communication. In this story the bridge is their parrot Mango. As they teach Mango words, they each understand more about the other's language. Both books celebrate the importance of connecting with family and understanding family history to better understand ourselves.
Finally, Jaqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez have created a stunning book called The Day You Begin. This story is a reminder of all the moments that we feel alone and misunderstood, but how each time we speak up and tell our story, we allow someone to connect with us.
Enjoy Celebrate Your Name week!
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