As part of our ongoing work on researching texts from the readers ’bookshelf, we asked our children and young staff members to talk about their favorite children’s books from the collection.
This month, our Storybarn director, Natalia Rojas, tells us why she loves it The name jar By Yangsuk Choi.
The Name Jar is a beautiful story about a young girl named Unhei (Yun-hee) who recently moved from Korea to America.
We meet Unhei for the first time on the school bus and she understands that she is nervous and excited for her first day of school in a whole new place. While riding the bus she has the unfortunate experience of some children not being able to pronounce her name properly, which adds to her discomfort and makes her feel like an outsider.
When asked to introduce herself, she informs her class that she has not yet chosen a name but will choose until the following week. To the great disappointment of Unhei’s mother, Unhei believes she should have an easier name to pronounce; Something American, something that would make her fit in.
During the week she is served a glass name jar by her classmates, who are eager to help her decide on her new name so that everyone can get to know her. Daisy because it’s the nickname of a baby sister of a classmate, Tamla because it’s a story and she’s smart and brave, Wensdy because she arrived on Wednesday. These are just a few names suggested but no one feels right for Anaheim.
This process pushes Onhai to embark on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance as she learns how to deal with her inner struggle to balance her old and new cultures. Ultimately, it’s a story of remembering to embrace yourself, acknowledging what makes you different and celebrating it. It’s also related to making friendships and how strong those relationships can be, even when they start with something small like “hey”.
What is the name? It turns out that a great deal, and when I learn it, she realizes that there is no name that can ever change her name.