Friday, May 27, 2022

It’s a common occurrence in the beginning of the school year. Students with unique or unusual-sounding names cringe when their names are mangled. It’s something that can make children feel—well, volcanic. In “My Name Is Wakawakaloch!” by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Mary Sullivan (HMH Books for Young Readers; Aug 27, 2019; $17.99 hardcover), a young cave girl erupts every time her name is mispronounced but eventually learns to overcome her frustration and appreciate its origins.

No one can pronounce Wakawakaloch’s name. Why couldn’t she be called something simple... like Gloop? That’s a name you can find on a T-shirt! But after a visit with her tribe’s elder, Wakawakaloch discovers what her name means, and how powerful names can be. Gloop may be easy to say, but the girl who helps her friends embrace differences and wear their names proudly? Her name is Wakawakaloch!

Chana Stiefel was named for her maternal great-grandmother, who immigrated to America from pre-state Israel in 1920. “Like Wakawakaloch, I am proud to carry on the legacy of my namesake. My hope is that all children (and adults) with unusual names will be inspired to delve into their heritage and wear their names proudly.”

Join Stiefel for a book-launch party for “My Name Is Wakawakaloch!” on September 8, from 2-4 p.m., at the Teaneck Public Library, 840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck. There will be a book reading and signing, games and treats.

Visit chanastiefel.com for more info.

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