Monday, November 19, 2012

The Name Jar

Choi, Yangsook. 2001. The Name Jar. Ill. Yangsook Choi.  New York: Dragonfly Books. ISBN 9780440417996

The Name Jar tells the story of Unhei, a young girl who has come to America from Korea.  Unhei wants to make friends but worries that no one will be able to pronounce her name.  She decides to have a name jar and choose a new name from the suggestions in the jar.  But, what name should she choose?

The Name Jar is written from the perspective of a young Korean girl who is trying to decide who she is in her new home.  Unhei does not want to be made fun of for her name which is difficult to pronounce for her new classmates.  She decides to pick a new American name and begins to collect suggestions in her name jar. 
Yangsook Choi does a wonderful job of incorporating Korean culture into the short picture book.  Unhei is giver her name carved into a block of wood which can be used as her signature when she is in Korea.  Also, she and her mother visit Mr. Kim's market where they purchase groceries to make traditional Korean food.  Choi also includes information about Korean traditions such as the use of a name master when selecting the name for a new baby. 
The illustrations which were also done by the author depict wonderful diversity within the children of Unhei's class.  Each child has varied skin tones as well as varied hair styles and textures.  Unhei and her family have several authentic physical features which are common among Korean Americans.  Unhei's hair is smooth, black and straight.  Her eyes have a slight tilt to them.  And her skin is a lovely creamy tan.  Anyone who has had Korean friends will recognize that Unhei is Korean from the illustrations.

WINNER 2003 Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Master List
NOMINEE 2005 Arizona Young Readers Award
"Cultural details freshen the story"- New York Times Book Review
"Choi draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation"- Kirkus

Visit the author's website at
Read an interview with the author at
Have children select a symbol that represents their name.  Create apple or potato stamps of their symbol and have each child stamp their "name"
Create your own name jar.  If you could choose any name for yourself what would it be?
Research the meaning and origin of students names.

Other books by Yangsook Choi:
Behind the Mask, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2006 ISBN 0-374-30522-6
Earthquake, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2001 ISBN 0-374-39964-6
Gai See, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007, ISBN 0-810-99337-6 7
Good-bye, 382 Shin Dang Dong, National Geographic, 2002, ISBN 0-7922-7985-9
Landed, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2006 ISBN 0374343144
New Cat, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1999, ISBN 0-374-35512-6
Nim and the War Effort, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1997, ISBN 0-374-35523-1
Peach Heaven, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2005, ISBN 0-374-35761-7
Rice Is Life, Henry Holt, 2000, ISBN 0-8050-5719-6
The Sun Girl and the Moon Boy, Knopf, 1997, ISBN 0-679-88386-X
This Next New Year, Frances Foster Books, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2000, ISBN 0-374-35503-7

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