Name Stories for Kids: For name-nerds-in-training!

There are countless books for kids with first names in their titles—from Harold and the Purple Crayon to Madeline to Fancy Nancy to Olivia—but there aren’t very many books for children about names, with scenarios revolving around such name issues as how they relate to identity, popularity, etc

I have found a few books aimed at preschoolers that do address some of these questions, most of them  almost inevitably ending—no matter what the problem– with the child accepting and loving his or her own name, sometimes by finding the right nickname.  And several of the books have the added attraction of containing big bunches of appealing (or silly) names.

So here they are, for your name nerd in the making:

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001)

This is the gentle tale of a little Korean girl newly arrived with her family in America, beginning her first day of school.  When her classmates find her Korean name, Unhei, difficult to spell and pronounce, she wonders if she should have her own American name, and so the other kids try to help by putting name suggestions into a jar.  Daisy?  Miranda?  Madison? Avery? In the end, Unhei reconnects with her own culture, loving her name for its meaning and its link to her Korean family and heritage.  (I happen to know a five-year-old girl with Chinese roots and a Chinese name, whose favorite book this is.)

Eleanor, Ellatony, Ellencake, and Me by C. M Rubin (Gingham Dog Press, 2003)

How a girl named Eleanor has to deal with the fact that everyone in her family calls her by a different nickname, indicative of the ways in which  they see her and project her future, images which she then enacts in a series of comical fantasies.  After rejecting all of them. from Elle to Punch to Elbow Macaroni, and following  the advice of a wise aunt who tells her that she herself will find the name that’s right for her, she announces herself as Ellie.

Don’t Call Me Sidney by Jane Sutton (Dial Books, 2010)

This time it’s a pig rather than a person with a name problem. Sidney is a poetic pig who loves to write rhyming birthday poems for his friends.  When he realizes that his own name doesn’t rhyme with anything but kidney, he decides to change it to Joe—a name he keeps forgetting .  His mother is upset, as Sidney was named after a beloved mop-inventor great-great-great grandfather.  Finally, he comes up with the rhymable nickname Sid, and happily for all—especially his mother—he can still be Sidney, with Sid for poem purposes. An amusing story with witty, whimsical illustrations.

Just Mabel by Frieda Wishinsky (Houghton Mifflin, 2001)

The story of a girl who thinks her name is too plain—Mabel (!) –for the famous singer she hopes to be, and so decides to share her best friend’s name—Holly.  When that gets too confusing, she then borrows the name of her favorite aunt, Marietta— also not successful.  At the end, she sees an ultra famous and fabulous Lady Gaga-esque singer on TV who happens to be named Lady Mabel, and to the little heroine, “soon her name sounded as lovely as music.”

Four Boys Named Jordan by Jessica Harper (Penguin, 2004)

The title tells it all in this story in rhyme of the complications that arise when there are four boys in a class with the same name—Jordan N., Jordan S., Jordan P. and Jordan F.  The situation gets even worse when a new girl enters the class, whose name is also—you guessed it.

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10 Responses to “Name Stories for Kids: For name-nerds-in-training!”

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Leslie Owen Says:

April 7th, 2011 at 3:13 am

Please don’t forget one of my favourite whimsical “name” picture books, A Porcupine Named Fluffy. Witty and inventive.

Lola Says:

April 7th, 2011 at 9:20 am

We have “The Name Jar” and “Don’t Call Me Sidney”. Josie loves them both. We have Kevin Henkes “Chrysanthemum” too, but she hates that one.

I definitely have a namenerd in the making: Last night, after supper, she asked for the “Karate Kid” movie (w/Jaden Smith, she thinks he’s awesome). As the movie started, his character “Dre” was introduced and she said: “Dre? What? Poor Kid. I’m renaming him Anton” And so she did. 😀
When we signed her up for ballet, the teacher said “With a princess name like this, you just *have* to be a professional ballerina”. to her. Josie beamed. So it’s starting already. I should count myserlf lucky that she’s not renaming herself daily (which is what *I* did at her age)! 😀

luckymomma Says:

April 7th, 2011 at 10:14 am

Oh, don’t forget Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes! She’s a little mouse girl who gets teased because her name is so long it doesn’t fit on the kindergarten name tags. I won’t spoil the plot, but a fantastic music teacher makes it all okay. Here’s a link:

BritishAmerican Says:

April 7th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

My first thought was Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes too! I feel a little weird at times, reading it to my daughter Rose, because they make fun of Chrysanthemum for being named after a flower. 🙁 It does have a happy ending at least. 🙂

Madi Says:

April 7th, 2011 at 5:05 pm

My first thought was Chrysanthemum, too! That was my favorite book when I was little.

Valentina Says:

April 7th, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I love the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes! It was a big hit because I had name issues at the age of five (Valentina was too long, I didn’t have a middle name like everyone else, so on and so forth. Even renamed myself as Valentina Maria for a while). Plus I remember liking some of his other books. I love my name though, and Chrysanthemum is still one of my favorites because of that book.

auburn Says:

April 8th, 2011 at 6:39 am

These books sound just great – I’ll be encouraging the name nerd within my little nephews when I next buy them a chunk of reading material.
On a side note, is Wishinsky not the most brilliant surname out there? I’m seriously envious!


Sarah A Says:

April 8th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Along the lines of “The Name Jar” is a book called “My Name is Bilal” by Asma Mobin-Uddin. Bilal moves to a new school where kids make fun of him for being Muslim, so he starts calling himself Bill or Billy. I think the book ends with a teacher helping him see the importance of the Muslim figure Bilal who he was named after and reclaiming his name.
Here’s a link:

Chelsea Says:

June 3rd, 2011 at 2:38 pm

I was thinking Chrysanthemum too! That was always my favorite book as a kid. Looking back, it was probably a favorite because of my name obsession..makes sense

Elizabeth Blackwell Says:

November 26th, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Oh sweet!! , the article had reviewed a collection of stories relating to the name of a person, and it is kind of realistic to read such simple stories as it makes us feel it. So just tips me of a website named where readers themselves are able to add their own real stories based on their own experiences, to the already existing tales of the South Sound.

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