Tag Archives: Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow illustrated by Luisa Uribe

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Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow illustrated by Luisa Uribe

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An amazingly empowering simple story that breathes pride and beauty in to names and our identities.  The 40 pages are a celebration of the rhythm of our names and the dreams and hopes that they contain for us.  Perfect for kindergarten to second graders, readers of all ages will find something valuable in this book.  Those with “common” names might reevaluate what their names mean or why they were so named, children with “unique” names will find the music and confidence to ask others to learn their name correctly, older kids might reconsider shortened nick names, and we all inshaAllah will make more of an effort to get people’s names pronounced right.

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A little girl has had an awful first day of school.  As she stomps toward her mom at dismissal.  No one could say her name.  Not even the teacher, it got stuck in her throat.  Her mom gently reminds her stomping is only for dancing, and tells her that her name is a song.

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The little girl is skeptical, but as they say people’s names on their way home, and find the magic and rhythm and beat in each one, they address the horrible things that have happened to the girl that day regarding her name.  At lunch girls pretended to choke on her name, and later one boy said her name was scary, some even tell her, her name sounds made up.

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Her mother explains that some names come from deep in the heart, not the throat and cannot be choked on, that names are fire and strong, and that names are made from the sky when our real names were stolen and so new ones have to be dreamed.

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All the way home they go through names, diverse names, beautiful names.  The next day she doesn’t want to go to school, but she has a song to teach.  When her teacher starts calling  out names, the little girl starts tapping the rhythm, when Ms. Anderson starts to struggle on the little girl’s name, she starts to sing it.  She explains that her name is a song, and that she will teach it to them.  The other children then ask her to sing their names. And with a smile on her face, it is music to Kora-Jalimuso’s ears.

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I love that there are three pages of the names mentioned in the story and their origins and meanings listed.  I also like that the little girl’s name is not revealed until the end.  The pronunciation of the names is in the text, all of them, even Bob.   And when I read the name Trayvon, I felt an added weight of saying people’s names, breathing them into our lives and not forgetting them.

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The family could be Muslim based on the mom’s head wrap.  The author is Muslim and there are Arabic and Islamic names included in the story.

Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow illustrated by Ebony Glenn

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Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow illustrated by Ebony Glenn

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Children playing dress-up with their mother’s clothes is a universal activity, that most can relate to.  Playing dress-up in your mother’s khimar is what makes this book both familiar and stereotype breaking in a way that is actually pretty powerful.

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In this 40 page hardback book targeting 4-8 year olds, Salaam Reads, once again brings Muslim characters to the masses, without alienating or talking down to either Muslim or non Muslims readers.

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The story starts off with a little girl explaining that “A khimar is a flowing scarf that my mommy wears.  Before she walks out the door each day, she wraps one around her head.”  She then marvels at the variety of scarves her mother has, commenting on the colors, and prints, and designs, that by the time she is ready to use them as her favorite make-believe accessory, readers will be wishing they too could have such an assortment.

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From using a khimar to be a queen with a golden train, to being a shooting star, the reader also along the way learns that she loves the connection the khimars offer her of her mother, when she isn’t near.  The ladies at the masjid are also part of that connection so that when she dreams of all the fantastical pretend things she can be, she also knows they too are with her.  Even her grandma, Mom-Mom, who exclaims “Sweet Jesus” when she sees her in her yellow khimar, and loves her although she doesn’t go to the mosque like the little girl does, is a part of the love and support the little girl feels by those around her when she is wrapped up in her mother’s khimar.  download (1)I love that it stresses even though her grandma is not Muslim they love each other because they are family.  Muslims and Islam are never mentioned outright, just the mosque and the ladies saying Assalamu alaikum, hint at the khimar being worn for religious reasons.

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Perhaps the best part is the pictures.  The illustrations with their yellowish hues radiate warmth and the faces and smiles are good for the soul.  You can feel the love the little girl both receives and gives to those around her through the pictures that perfectly compliment the simple text.

The diversity of the book in the main character being a girl, a child of color, and a Muslim, is such a beautiful thing to see.  Stories like this are powerful tools when children see themselves in books with positive messages, and remind us all how much more diversity it needed in literature to both highlight our differences, and celebrate our similarities.