Review: The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Reviewed by Ali Larson91iqD7uXQ+L

Unhei is worried nobody will like her at her new school, especially with a name that’s so difficult to pronounce. Does she need a new name?

Unhei is filled with anxiety on her first day of school in America. It only gets worse as students on the bus tease her about her Korean name. They call her, “Yoo-hey”, “You hey”, and “Hey you”! When Unhei arrives to her classroom, students curiously ask Unhei questions, including her name. Unhei replies, “I haven’t picked one yet. I’ll let you know next week!” All week long, classmates drop suggestions in Unhei’s “name jar”.

Just when Unhei is about to announce her name, her name jar goes missing! Will Unhei keep her Korean name or choose a new American name?celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-name-jar-mom

This picture-book is a perfect read aloud for the beginning of the school year to build community and celebrate students’ identities. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 50.3% of K-12 students are students of color. Millions of students will experience frustration similar to Unhei because people are not able to correctly pronounce their name. Author and illustrator Yangsook Choi shows the beauty and importance of keeping one’s culture and one’s original name in modern day America.

The Name Jar
written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi.
Scholastic, 2001
40 pages

Ali Larson, elementary ELL teacher, aspiring author, and a graduate student of Second Language Education.

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