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.
Nameberry (http://nameberry.com) is a baby-naming site produced by Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz, co-authors of 10 bestselling baby name guides, including the newest, “Beyond Ave and Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby.”