Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Picture Book a Day for a Year: Day 179

Picture Book: The Name Jar

Author & Illustrator: Yangsook Choi

Summary: Unhei, a Korean immigrant, is quite worried about making new friends in her new school. She’s especially worried that her classmates may not like her name because it is hard for English speakers to pronounce. When she introduces herself, Unhei explains that she will choose a name next week. Her classmates decide to help her out and fill a name jar with possible names for her to consider. During the week, Unhei tries different names unsatisfactorily, and Joey, a classmate, happens to meet her in a Korean grocery store and learns her real name and its meaning, “grace”. The day of her name choosing, Unhei can’t find the name jar, but she has already decided to choose her Korean name. She teaches the class how to pronounce it and its special meaning. They tell her about the meanings of their own special names.

Hanna’s Comments: There is much more to this rich story including a beautiful relationship with Unhei’s grandmother who’s still in Korea. Unhei’s classmates are wonderfully encouraging. At one point Unhei shows Joey her name in Korean characters with wooden stamps. He thinks it’s cool and gets his own Korean name and stamp. This kind of stamping activity could easily be a follow-up for your children when you read this book to them.

Publisher & Date of Publication: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001

Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up

# of Pages: 40

Available in Spanish? Not at present

Formats other than Book: Tablet, There are amateur videos on

PBT Category: Post 2K

PBT Topics this Book Connects with: adaptation/assimilation, affirmation, aliens/immigrants/refuges/strangers, anxiety/worry, Asia, authenticity, belonging, bonds/connections, change, choices/decisions, differences, encouragement, exile/separation/walls, friends/friendship, grace, grandparents, heritage, hospitality, identity/names, insecurity, language/literacy/reading, memories/remembering/ritual/tradition, new home/new location, new school, openness, treasure, waiting

Scripture Connections: Ruth, an immigrant (Book of Ruth); Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-42)

Idea(s) for Application: What strikes me about this book is the hospitable behavior of Unhei’s classmates. It demonstrates how hospitality and kindness for someone can transform their anxiety into confidence and, in Unhei’s case, pride in her identity. Link this idea with the stories of Ruth or the Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke with at the well. Emphasize how believing that you are a beloved, wonderfully-created child of God can encourage you to embrace your own particular identity.  

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