Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

A Melody For Now, A Melody For Always

Our world is made of melodies.  If you stand outside, as still as stone, wherever you are, you will hear them.  Listen.  There is the sound of water on rocks in the mountains or upon a sandy beach along a multitude of lakes, seas, or oceans.  There is the sound of animals on the move across a dusty savanna, looking for their next drink or meal.  There is the sound of wind in pine trees, the chatter of squirrels, the hammering of a woodpecker looking for insects or the gentle buzz of a hummingbird seeking nectar.  There is the sound of children laughing at a nearby park, dogs barking in warning, people calling out greetings, and the constant chorus of vehicles honking, stopping, and going.  Each time of day brings its own special symphony.

One of the most beautiful melodies is one made with words spoken in respect and affection.  Your Name Is A Song (The Innovation Press, July 7, 2020) written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow with illustrations by Luisa Uribe is a lovely look at how understanding can shape perspective.  A wise mother teaches a daughter, who in turn teaches many, the universal cadence found in all our names.

"I'm not coming back every again!" The girl stomped.

A little girl is frustrated to the center of her soul because none of her classmates or teacher can pronounce her name.  As her mother hears her comments when they walk home, she stops for a moment, listening.  Then she suggests to her daughter that she tell her teacher that her name is a song.  The child is certain she cannot do that.  How is a name a song?

Examples of names are shared by her mother.  The little girl softly practices with several names she remembers.  It's true!  There is a special cadence, a tune, to each name.  With lifted spirits, the daughter believes this might work, until she remembers children being unkind when saying her name.

Her marvelous Momma has an answer.  When you make the sound for a name, sometimes it rings truer if it is said from the heart.  When the child gives another instance of a classmate's reaction to her name, her mother says names should not frighten, but display strength.  Each time her daughter relates an incident during the day, her mother follows with a positive outlook.  She closes their conversation with a stunningly superb story.

The following day, still not excited to attend school, the girl has her mother's ideas to try.  She anxiously stands in line, feeling the beat, as the teacher calls one name after the other.  When her teacher gets to her name, she waits and then she sings.  It is not easy, but the little girl sings from her heart, changing the hearts of everyone who hears.

Like a composer, author Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow conceives a narrative brimming with truth and familial warmth.  Readers can immediately identify with the child who suffers from her teacher's and classmates' lack of ability or sincere attempts to say her name.  The way Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow frames the mother's responses are themselves melodious.  Three times the daughter questions how her mother's suggestion will work, and three times the mother replies with sincerely inspirational answers.  The blend of text and dialogue is done with great skill.  Here is a passage.

Wires sparked above a streetcar, and Momma and the girl jumped
back, startled.  Momma put a calming hand on the girl's shoulder.
"Tell the boy some names have fire."
"You can put fire in a name?"

"Kwaku (KWAY-koo) storms in on a Wednesday,
and fire dances in Sagnika (sag-NEE-kah)!" Momma said.
"Names are that strong?" the girl asked.

When you gaze at the matching and open dust jacket and book case, joy radiates from every element.  The color palette is luminous and contrasting between pastels and darker and brighter hues.  The clothing on Momma and her daughter exudes happiness. Their outstretched arms and smiling faces invite you to participate in their story.  The items illustrator Luisa Uribe creates to represent song and rhythm, flow, glow and surround Momma and the little girl.  They are vibrant to the extent you expect them to wrap around you, too.  To the left, on the back, the clouds shown on the front are larger, as if we are among them.  They extend over the spine to the left edge of the front.  A single song moves among them.

On the opening and closing endpapers Luisa Uribe has placed the same pattern and shades as shown on Momma's pants.  Mint green provides a canvas on the verso and title pages.  Beneath the title text, still in red, are star-filled songs moving through clouds.

Each of the striking images are double-page or full-page pictures, page edge to page edge.  They are filled with details welcoming readers deeper into the story.  Readers will pause to notice the clothing on all the characters, the intricate elements in the settings, and the facial expressions.  There is a bird appearing in several scenes. The most magical visuals are when names are sung, and beats are found as they walk home.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Momma is speaking to her daughter about made-up names coming from the sky (and dreamers).  This story is powerful and exquisite.  In either lower corner are portions of buildings in their community.  On the left, Momma is standing and pointing skyward with both her arms stretched out on either side of her.  On the right, her daughter is walking among the colorful, sparkling clouds pulling new names from the sky.  The names are written in loose, elegant script.  In the far right-hand corner, a bit of night sky is shown filled with stars.

Your heart, regardless of how many times you read this title, will be happy every single time.  This book, Your Name Is A Song written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow with illustrations by Luisa Uribe, is certain to give all readers courage and to inspire them to look at names and people with fresh and compassionate eyes.  It's guaranteed you'll be singing names from now on when you hear them.  At the close of the book on three pages is a Glossary Of Names Featured In The Story with an author's note.  This book has my highest recommendation for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and Luisa Uribe and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Luisa Uribe has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow is interviewed about this book at The Brown Bookshelf.  At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read., he chats with Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow about this book.  Teacher librarian Matthew C. Winner speaks about this book with the author on his The Children's Book Podcast.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Please enjoy the video below with the author.

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