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Your Name Is a Song

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Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl's mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class. Your Name is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.

40 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2020

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Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

7 books139 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 422 reviews
Profile Image for Nafiza.
Author 6 books1,207 followers
July 1, 2020
On my first day in school in Canada, the teacher told the kids in class that my name was "Napija" despite me telling him my name very carefully before class started. I was in grade twelve, completely out of my depth in a new country among strange people, thousands of kilometres away from everyone and everything familiar to me.

Unsurprisingly, everyone in the class laughed at my name. So did the teacher. He grinned as if he had told a marvellously funny joke and looked at me as if expecting me to partake in the hilarity. I'm ashamed to say that at that moment I laughed because what else could I do? I had no confidence to assert myself. No language in which to express the hurt I felt. So I allowed them to make fun of my name. Of me.

When I read YOUR NAME IS A SONG, I thought of 17 year old Nafiza who grimaced her way through that first class. The picture book is an homage to names and to the cultures these names honour. If you've read my first book, you may realize how much I revere the power of names. This book will make two kinds of people very uncomfortable: those who intentionally disrespect names and those who can't be bothered to look up the pronunciations of names because "they're too hard."

YOUR NAME IS A SONG is lush, poetic, and profound. It shows the bond between a parent and child and it addresses pertinent issues a POC child might be going through. The art is beautiful and the language is alive. YOUR NAME IS A SONG deserves to be read out loud, to be sung, with claps and trills. It will be wildly popular during storytime once storytimes are back. The picture book can also be used as a springboard to discuss racism in language and in a context younger kids can understand. I sincerely recommend it to parents, teachers, and librarians everywhere.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,692 followers
September 15, 2020
This is honestly such a beautiful book and I want to give this book to every child, teen, and adult who have names that people trip over.

I mean, I have a name that a lot of people trip over. (And that's why y'all call me CW and not by my full first name.) My name is beautiful, a gift from my parents, but like the adorable main character in Your Name is a Song, my name often gets stuck in people's mouths. For a long time, I really didn't like my name - but I didn't want an 'English' name either, because deep down, my name was important to me and who I was. 20-something years later, and I'm glad I never changed it!
Because my name is a song of my heart and who I am too, just as this book says. ❤

I love how affirming this book is; it is told with so much love. The illustrations are beautiful and capture the spirit of this book's loving and compassionate message.
Profile Image for Noura Khalid (theperksofbeingnoura).
505 reviews731 followers
June 15, 2020
Thank you Innovation Press for the gifted review copy!

I can't explain to you how important this book is! This picture book shows how important and beautiful names from all cultures are. The meaning behind each name and the beauty that others might miss. The importance of learning how to pronounce people's names, and to teach others the beauty behind them and the importance to put in the effort to pronounce them correctly. I loved the art. I loved the idea behind this book. I loved that it also teaches children to love their own names and to see how that makes them unique and to also take pride in their culture. I hope this book makes it into the hands of children and teachers very soon!
Profile Image for Intisar Khanani.
Author 16 books2,205 followers
December 30, 2020
Absolutely gorgeous. I wish, as a child whose name hardly anyone could pronounce, I had had this. For now, I'm grateful to have been able to share it with my children--and will certainly be recommending it to everyone I can, most especially educators and librarians working with young children. Full of heart and beauty.
Profile Image for Reem Faruqi.
Author 10 books153 followers
June 16, 2020
This important book is a love letter to all those children whose names get stuck in their teachers' mouths and for all of us who have ever had trouble pronouncing the names of others.  The character's first words to her mother are how she never wants to go back to school again because when her teacher tried to say her name, "it got stuck in her mouth." Her wise mother reassures her with a beautiful saying, the title of the book, "Your Name is a Song."

The author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow touches on multicultural names in a rhythmic and lyrical fashion. Joyful illustrations by Luisa Uribe round out the story giving it vibrant color and movement.

Thompkins-Bigelow expressively writes, "Made-up names come from dreamers. Their real names were stolen long ago so they dream up new ones. They make a way out of no way, make names out of no names - pull them from the sky!" It was poignant to see Trayvon's name woven into the story to honor Trayvon Martin's legacy.

I appreciated how each name in this story had its pronunciation in parentheses after it. Names that might seem simple to some may be challenging for others. I am of Pakistani origin and when I moved to the United States, I remember my mother struggled to say her co-worker's name, Melissa.

As a mother of daughters with Muslim names that may be "trickier" to pronounce for some, I feel this book is essential in boosting their confidence in saying their name proudly, like a beautiful song.

As a picture book author, I loved the seamless way the words and illustrations were infused with joy.

As a second grade teacher, I know how important it is to make sure each child's name is said correctly. This book emphasizes the need for us to be heard, recognized, understood and most importantly ... celebrated.

A must-read for all classrooms, families, and communities!
Profile Image for Saadia Faruqi.
Author 71 books368 followers
June 16, 2020
This book was fantastic! I loved the idea of people's names as precious and important, and that we should all appreciate names that don't sound like ours. As a mom who's son has a difficult-to-pronounce name, I know how challenging the school environment can be for little kids. This book is a perfect way to remind us - both kids and adults - that we need to make an effort to learn things that we may not be comfortable with us. Perfect read for the home, as well as the school, with lovely art and an essential message!
Profile Image for Farah Rishi.
Author 7 books461 followers
June 16, 2020
Oh, my heart. This beautiful book made my heart sing. I wish I’d had it as a child! It’s the perfect book to be read aloud. The illustrations are vivid and charming, and the story is one that will resonate with all readers—but especially for those with a little more fire in their names.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,240 reviews
January 20, 2021
Yes!this is such an important book. I think it's beautifully done. Please see the reviews by people who can relate more to the story than I* can, but even though I don't have the first-hand experience, I was moved. I love the mother's creative and touching approach to helping her daughter see that her name is a song... that all names are a song. I thought the ending was perfect. All along, we have the pronunciation guide for names like Ummi and Olumide included in the text... then at the end we encounter Bob (BAWB) and Ms. Anderson (Mizzz AN-der-son). I thought it was great that they also had the pronunciation guide with their names (because, of course, these names are only "common" in certain cultures). It's also very touching and inclusive the way that the little girl teaches her classmates and teacher that ALL names are songs. This is a story that uplifts and encourages. A lovely and valuable "lesson" book that is increasingly needed in our ever more diverse country.

*I grew up with a very common first and last name (I often got misspellings of my first name but never mispronunciations) but my husband's last name is constantly mispronounced and it does get tedious at times -- though in our case that is simply innocent ignorance on the part of the speakers... I can only imagine how much more painful it is when there is derision or worse attached to how others speak your name, and your first name, at that.
Profile Image for Abby Johnson.
3,373 reviews313 followers
September 1, 2020
As a girl and her mother walk home from the first day of school, the girl relates how frustrated she was when her teacher couldn't pronounce her name and the other kids at school made fun of it. Her mother explains that her name is a song and that lots of names need to be said from the heart instead of the tongue or are made up after other names have been stolen from them. This is a wonderful book for kids and teachers to read about the importance of names. Young readers with names that often get mispronounced will find words to speak back (and teach) about it and anyone who meets new kids and learns their names on a regular basis should read this book. I especially appreciate that all the names in the book (even white normative names like "Bob" or "Ms. Anderson") are given pronunciation guides.

This is a must for school and public libraries!
Author 4 books296 followers
July 2, 2020
Anyone who has been in school with a name that was foreign or difficult to pronounce will relate to this book. Anyone who has struggled to give names that sound different respect will learn from it. Names are uniquely bound to identity and the message of this book--to reclaim your name, to stand up for it--is powerful, moving and important.
Profile Image for Christina Carter.
242 reviews32 followers
June 30, 2020
The first day of school is butterfly tummies, new friends, and new experiences. It's something to be excited about but when one little girl has gone all day with everyone mispronouncing her name, she's not so sure she wants to go back. On their walk home, her mom says to "Tell your teacher that your name is a song." A beautiful song. A name that can be said correctly when folks give it a try...but you'll have to read the book to find out her name for yourself. When you read it, you'll learn other names too. Names that have fire and twinkle like stars. Names imagined by dreamers that were made with love and purpose.

The book ends with the reader learning how to say her name. In fact, each name that is mentioned throughout includes the phonetic spelling in parentheses. And even though I am not revealing her name, I will say that I adore her name's meaning which literally means "harp of a female griot." A fitting name for this character who teaches others how to say her name and the names of others through song. By the end of this book, you may find yourself singing their names too.

This would be a great book to read at the beginning of the school year with all of kindergarten through 5th grade as we build community and learn more about our classmates and teachers. Learning how to Pronounce names correctly shows that we care and as Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow shares in her author's note, "Ask people how to pronounce their names and let them know that getting it right is important to you."

This book releases on July 7th, 2020. Thank you to Asia Citro for providing our Book Excursion team with an advance copy to read, enjoy, and review.
Profile Image for Jessica Petersen.
Author 2 books8 followers
June 10, 2020
One of the most beautiful picture books -- in every sense of the word -- that I've ever read. With exuberance and grace, it shows children the musicality, strength, and meaning of names from all cultures, and teaches them the importance of making the respectful effort to learn to say another person's name -- but also how to take pride in your own name, even when others aren't being respectful about learning it, and to stand up for yourself in a powerful way that brings a community closer. Every classroom, every child needs this one!
Profile Image for Rabiah Lumbard.
Author 8 books65 followers
June 16, 2020
Precious, precious book. I loved every detail, emotion and moment in this precious story--both the lyrical, warm narrative and the delicious illustrations. As parents we put so much thought into our children's names. It is one of the most joyful moments to hold our babies and name them with all our hopes and dreams and love. I hope and pray that others embrace all the beautiful names and languages and cultures celebrated in this story for to do that is to uplift humanity and our children. My own kids have "funny" names. They are Arabic names and sometimes they "catch" in the throats of others. That's ok. Sometimes we aren't familiar with a new name and make mistakes. Mistakes are human. But it doesn't take much to ask and to learn. And this message of celebrating all the names in this wide world and the human's behind those names is of utmost importance. To sing a name, to love the named is a simple way to uplift and respect and show we care. This book should be in every home, school, library and community the world over. Congrats to Jamilah on another fabulous book. And congrats to Luisa on magical illustrations.
Profile Image for Nadine Courtney.
Author 4 books214 followers
June 16, 2020
I absolutely love this sweet book! Not only are the illustrations in YOUR NAME IS A SONG exquisite, but the message is so beautiful and empowering, and my 5-year-old daughter really enjoyed how lyrical it is. I grew up with a "weird" and difficult to pronounce last name that constantly made me the butt of jokes and confusion. As a result, I always had an inferiority complex about being different and wishing I had a "normal" American last name. I wish this book had existed when I was a kid — it would have given me so much more pride and confidence that my birth name was beautiful and strong and awesome. Also, something I really appreciated is that Thompkins-Bigelow sounds out *all* the names — not just Olumide, Kotone, and Ta'jae, but also Ms. Anderson, Benjamin, and Olivia. After all, there are no "normal" names and "weird" names but simply names...and they're all beautiful. Loved the glossary at the end and author's note, too. YOUR NAME IS A SONG is a genuine must-buy for any children's book collection!
Profile Image for Sana.
Author 4 books12 followers
June 16, 2020
What an apt book in today's world where accepting each other is more important than ever. The book not only dives into what it feels like when someone can't pronounce your name (I've been there so many times!) but also captivates the feeling of celebration of different names. The writing is exquisite and the characters, especially the mom and the daughter, are both strong and eloquent. Such a pleasure to read!
Profile Image for Stefi.
594 reviews203 followers
September 14, 2020
Gosh, It's really cute ( the illustration ) and the story gives me a warm feeling.
Profile Image for Laura.
203 reviews10 followers
August 18, 2020
A beautiful book that everyone should read! Will read it to my 8th graders and my own kids.
Profile Image for Kathie.
Author 2 books66 followers
July 4, 2020
Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for an eARC of this book.

What a beautiful story, with such a timely message. Names are so important, and learning to say each other's names is a sign of respect. A person should never be made to feel that their name is not important, too difficult to be used, is worth being made fun of, or doesn't matter. I love that the poetry of language and rhythm is emphasized as the girl's mother teaches her to think of her name as a song, and to be proud to share it with others.

This is a must read and I encourage all school and libraries to add it to their collections.
Profile Image for Mary Lee.
2,956 reviews55 followers
August 5, 2020
This is a book I will practice and practice (the way I do my students' names) until I can get it right before I read it aloud on the first day of school. I will practice until no name makes me pause or gets stuck in my mouth.

A name is the first thing our new students offer to us. How we receive these gifts says so much in our first hours and days together.

Here is a poem for adults that addresses the same themes: https://poets.org/poem/give-your-daug...
Profile Image for Phil J.
701 reviews54 followers
July 27, 2021
This is a fantastic, affirming book for all students. All types of names are treated as significant and musical. There is some focus on West African names. This is a great "beginning of the year" book for grade school classrooms.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
2,078 reviews62 followers
December 15, 2020
Following her first day of school, a little girl tells her mother she is never going back. On the walk home, after discovering that the young girl’s name was mispronounced and made fun of, the mother teaches the girl about names being songs, with meaning, feeling, lyrics, and history.

First day of school teasing. *Sigh* How many of us experienced it? Probably for a variety of reasons. With how diverse and culturally-rich our communities are, special attention should be made to learning names and how to pronounce them … BY ALL OF US! Our names are our identities, first point-of-contact, first thing that says “this is who they are.”

Mispronouncing a name happens. So many languages, so many countries of origin. Just like with not remembering a name , one should not hesitate to ask! It drives me up-a-wall when people assume I will remember their name. Oh goodness, you have no idea how horrible my recall is. When I approach someone I may have met once or twice, I always say “Hi. I’m Jennifer. We met at …” Oh, they may say “Oh I remember you! You don’t have to introduce yourself!” But more often, I can see hints of relief reflected in their eyes.

When I meet someone knew with a name not familiar to me, I quickly say “I want to say your name correctly. It is important to me. Will you help me?” I have not yet had someone sigh, roll their eyes, or groan. All are quick to help. In fact, I’m the one who gets frustrated when they say “Well…that’s close enough.” Darn it! I want to get it right!

So, now, I will sing the names. What a beautiful image to put with a name.
Profile Image for Gabi.
21 reviews1 follower
May 30, 2021
I adored this book from beginning to end! I connected with this book as my teachers continually mispronounce my name, despite numerous attempts to correct them. As a young girl, I always hated dreaded when attendance was taken and my name was called aloud. I remember asking to use the restroom prior to this, and waiting a few minutes in hopes that I wouldn't be called on. My parents would receive phone calls from the office asking if I was in school that day, and I would always hate telling them the real truth.

This book had beautiful illustrations and I enjoyed the comparisons that the author made with names "coming from dreamers," as this is a wonderful way to imagine names being given. I believe that many students will be able to relate to this book, and it would be a very powerful addition to any classroom library.

This book could be used to teach identity, inclusion, diversity, or cause and effect in the classroom. The students could talk about where their name comes from, how it was chosen, and what the meaning behind it is. They could also create a piece of artwork where they "paint their name in the sky!" I know that this is something that I would've loved to have seen in my classroom growing up.
Profile Image for Kristen.
Author 2 books19 followers
April 17, 2021
Beautiful and necessary in classrooms and homes. A little girl is upset because her teacher and classmates not only can't pronounce her name, they seem to think it isn't important to say it correctly. It is important to say names correctly. Everyone's name.

It also gives a nod to why some names are "made-up". For hundreds of years in our country, many African names were taken away. So people created their own. They are songs they choose for themselves.

I looooove the pronunciation key that comes with every name. We learn how to pronounce Ta'jae (TAH-jay) as well as Bob (BAWB). And if we can't pronounce it correctly on the first try, we learn it - even sing it! - until we get it right.

Profile Image for Gabrielle Stoller.
1,375 reviews25 followers
February 2, 2021
I want this book to win the CLEL award for Sing. WHY? Because I love that embodies what we try to teach in early literacy. Song helps breaks down the syllables of words....and yes even names. Songs help people remember (trust me, it's still how I remember Jesus's disciples). For our young heroine, and her struggles with her teacher saying her name properly....when she learns to break it down and encourage others to do the same....beauty is seen.

What I appreciated was the pronunciation key that immediately followed certain words. As a storyteller, I would owe that to the audience that I am reading to.
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