The Name Jar

  • Title: The Name Jar
  • Author: Yangsook Choi
  • Illustrator: Yangsook Choi
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House Inc.
  • Publication year: 2001
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it—Yoon-Hey.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I found this article from The Prindle Institute of Ethics that gives a discussion guide on the themes of identity, difference and cultural assimilation present in this book. What is in a name? What about our names ties us to our culture? How do we respond to difference? I think this book could also be used for younger children and older children (maybe 1st through 2nd grade). I might would suggest pairing this book and Alma and How She Got Her Name.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – Choi’s illustrations are are very colorful and include rounded shapes and bigger lines, which I think lends to the feeling like this is a child’s world. I think my favorite set of illustrations is of Unhei showing Joey her name with her name stamp that was given to her by her grandmother.

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