My Name Is Wakawakaloch! (Chana Stiefel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is My Name Is Wakawakaloch!, written by Chana Stiefel, and illustrated by Mary Sullivan, a celebration of unusual names and the special people who have them.

Wakawakaloch, a young Neanderthal girl in a Flintstones-like village (anachronistic items like laptops are made of stone or wood, the currency is pigeons, etc), is very frustrated. None of her classmates can pronounce her name properly, and she is sick of forever correcting them. What’s more, the style of wearing one’s name on their t-shirt seems an impossibility for poor Wakawakaloch, but not for her classmates with more common caveman names (like Oog, Boog, or Goog). Returning home, she declares to her parents that her name shall be Gloop from now on, because she hates her real name. Her parents patiently explain that Wakawakaloch is a family name, and encourage her to talk to the wisest elder in the village, Elder Mooch. Mooch, in turn, advises Waka to be a “forward thinker and backwards seer”, an instruction that mystifies Waka… until she begins to remember the great Wakawakaloch of the past that she was named for…

Creative and affirming. Having grown up with an unusual name, and JJ herself having one too, I can definitely identify with Waka’s frustrations, and I think plenty of others can too. The idea that learning about role models who share an unusual name – as well as helping others feel included, as Waka does at the end by making custom name t-shirts for other kids with different names – is a great lesson. I only wish that the opportunity had been taken to make Waka a person of color, as these are the children that this issue disproportionately affects (and often in severely frustrating ways throughout their adult lives). Additionally, the “caveman-speak” dialogue can be a little tripping at times, especially as it mixes with the modern narration. The art is adorable though, with bright colors and a diverse cast of cute kids. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it. A little rough around the edges, but a great story to encourage little ones to take pride in their unique names. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

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