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The Storybarn selects… from The Reader Bookshelf

Written by Maisie Jeynes, 1st November 2021

As part of our ongoing work exploring texts from The Reader Bookshelf, we've asked members of our Children & Young People Team to talk about their favourite children's books from the collection.


This month, our Storybarn Manager, Natalia Rojas, tells us why she loves The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. 

The Name Jar is a beautiful story about a young girl named Unhei (Yoon-Hye) who has recently moved from Korea to America.

We first meet Unhei on a school bus and she is understandably nervous and excited for her first day of school in a brand new place. On the bus ride she has the unfortunate experience of some children failing 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 chosen a name yet but will have chosen by the following week. Much to the disappointment of Unhei’s mother, Unhei believes she needs an easier name to pronounce; something American, something that will make her fit in.

During the week, a glass name jar is presented to her by her fellow classmates who are eager to help her decide her new name so they can all get to know her.  Daisy because it’s a classmate’s baby sister’s nickname, Tamela because it’s from a story and she is smart and brave, Wensdy because she arrived on a Wednesday. These are just a few names that are suggested but none feel right to Unhei.

This process propels Unhei to go on a journey of self discovery and acceptance as she learns how to deal with her internal struggle of balancing her old and new cultures. Ultimately, this is a story of remembering to embrace yourself, acknowledging what makes you different and celebrating it. It's also about making friendships and how powerful those connections can be, even when they start with something as small as a friendly “Hey.”

What's in a name? Turns out a whole heck of a lot and as Unhei learns this, she realizes there’s no name that could ever replace her own.

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