Saturday, September 07, 2019

What's In A Name? My Name is Wakawakaloch! by Chana Stiefel

"Wakawakaloch was in a volcanic mood.

Everyone is bungling her name.




In every class--Sabertooth Safety Class, Boulder Rolling, even Club Club--her name is mangled.

Back at her cave, she complains.
Me changing my name to Gloop!"

Nobody says her name right, and for sure she'll never find a T-shirt with a name like Wakawakaloch on it!

Her family is dismayed. Wakawakaloch is a name that goes way back in their family. Pa thinks she's lost her pebbles and takes her for a consultation with Elder Mooch, the village's wisest Neanderthal.

Although Mooch smells like ripe mammoth poop, he gives her some good advice:
"My dear, you are forward thinker. You must be backwards seer, too."

And that night, as she tosses and turns on her polar bear skin, Wakawakaloch notices the carvings on the cave's wall, showing the brave and heroic acts of the great-great-great-great-great grandmother whose name is also hers. Awestruck, she places her hand on the print of her mighty ancestor. They match exactly!

Forget Gloop! With such a powerful name, she, too, can be great--beginning with creating T-shirts with everyone's name, in Chana Stiefel's brand-new My Name Is Wakawakaloch! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019). This spoof of prehistoric name angst will give readers a giggle, but kids who have common names and those who have uncommon ones will be fascinated to learn that all names, even the most ordinary, have meanings--Mary means "beloved" and William means "willing protector!"

This humorous little story is a good way of opening up discussion of the conflict between fitting in and being yourself. There's a personalized T-shirt out there for all of us, and the Geisel Award-winning Mary Sullivan's comic faux-naif illustrations offer sight-gags that will give young readers plenty of reasons to chuckle and perhaps send them eagerly to a dictionary of names as well. This is a charming picture book that offers varied learning possibilities and deepens understandings of the power of a name.

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