Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Okay, y’all, Your Name is a Song is an incredibly important book for both children and adults to read in the back-to-school season (and yes, even if back to school means back to distance learning this fall, the message is just as important and applicable!). It’s important for students who worry about how others will say their names on the first day of school, and for teachers who might feel the same way about how students pronounce their names. Important for families supporting these students. Important for teachers who studiously review their class lists to prepare for the first day of school. Important for students who yearn to create a welcoming environment for new students in their classes, and important for their parents as they help their children develop traits of inclusivity and respect. Read on to see what exactly makes Your Name is a Song, written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (who also wrote Mommy’s Khimar) and illustrated by Luisa Uribe, so important.

*** Affiliate links used. A big thank you to The Innovation Press for sharing this book with our family in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions of this book are my own. 

Your Name is a Song tells the story of a little girl who has a terrible first day of school, because “no one could say [her] name… It got stuck in [their] mouths.” Her compassionate and understanding Momma teaches her that her name is a song, one to be said with rhythm and sung with emotion. However, Kora-Jalimuso’s name is not the only one that is a song; rather, every single name is a song, from Ahlam to Bob to Xiomara and everything in between. Though Kora-Jalimuso still doesn’t want to go back to school the next day, she realizes that she needs to, because “she had songs to teach.” And that morning, when Ms. Anderson (Mizzz AN-der-son) calls roll, Kora-Jalimuso “looked to the sky” and “saw dreams and fire there.” She proceeds to tap out and move to the rhythm of all of the names in her class, stopping only with Ms. Anderson once again stumbles over her name. But, she finds her voice and sings not only her name, but the names of everyone in her class, helping them to see the beauty and individual song of every single name.

And, just as names are songs, Thompkins-Bigelow wrote Your Name is a Song with incredibly lyric prose. The powerful imagery combined with names to sing makes this a delight to read aloud (though, you’re going to want to preread this one and practice singing these names, for which Thompkins-Bigelow has fortunately given pronunciations).

And these illustrations! Starting with the cover illustration, they just radiate with joy, energy, and strength. Once Momma teaches Kora-Jalimuso to sing names, the songs move across each page, carrying us on each individual rhythm and melody. Be sure to spend time with the Glossary of Names Featured in the Story at the back of the book, where Thompkins-Bigelow has included the pronunciation, origin, and meaning of each name in the story.

Have I convinced you yet that Your Name is a Song is both delightful and important? Trust me, it’s worth the investment for your classroom or home library!

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