Review of Your Name Is a Song

Your Name Is a Song
by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow; illus. by Luisa Uribe
Preschool, Primary    Innovation    40 pp.    g
7/20    978-1-943147-72-4    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-1-943147-91-5    $10.99

Roll call can be difficult for a child with an unusual name. A young girl describes how her name “got stuck” in her teacher’s mouth and kids “pretended to choke” or “seemed afraid” while hearing it or attempting to pronounce it. As they walk home, Mom reminds her that her “name is a song” and many other names are as well: “Olumide is a melody…Mamadou is a beat.” She also imparts a lesson about descendants of enslaved Africans in the U.S.: “Their real names were stolen long ago so they dream up new ones.” When the girl returns to school, she sings the names of her teacher and classmates, then her own name: Kora-Jalimuso. Throughout the story all names are followed by phonetic spelling. Names are represented visually as colorful swirls and air currents, stars, or fiery sparks through which the girl’s mother lovingly leads her. A glossary of names, meanings, and pronunciations is included, by which we learn that the girl is named for a “harp of a female griot,” a person who “passes on oral history through song.” A bighearted, reassuring book that imparts a simple yet important message: we all deserve to have our names pronounced correctly.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam

Julie Hakim Azzam is the assistant director of the MFA program in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University and has a PhD in literary and cultural studies, with a specialization in contemporary postcolonial literature from Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East.

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