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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Book Trailer Reveal: My Name is Wakawakaloch by Chana Stiefel and Mary Sullivan

On the one hand, whenever I post a book jacket reveal or a book trailer reveal, I feel inordinately lazy. I mean, there goes another blog post I didn’t have to write. On the other hand, sometimes these things go above and beyond the call of duty. Today’s trailer is for the picture book My Name is Wakawakaloch by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Mary Sullivan. And wrack my brain though I have, I couldn’t think of a picture book that specifically discussed the mispronunciation of the protagonist’s name. I mean, we’ve had lots of name-related picture books. My Name Is Yoon. Chrysanthemum. The Name Jar. Alma. But about the way you say it specifically? Hmmm.

I asked Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to ask the author about the reason that this book was written in the first place. She replied:

“Several times a day, someone butchers my first name, Chana. It’s not China, Kahana, Carla or Shayna. It’s pronounced with a throat-clearing Ch (like challah or Chanukah) + ah + nah. I was named for my maternal great grandmother, who immigrated to America in 1920. Originally I wrote a story called THAT’S NOT MY NAME about a girl named Chana who wants to change her name to Sue. Her grandmother pulls out the family album and explains that there was another Chana who came before her, who sailed to America and built a new life for her family. My critique partners liked the story, but it needed work. Chana needed to solve her own problem. The story sat for a long time, until I read a blog post by my agent John Cusick. John had suggested that when you’re stuck in a story, try dropping the main character into a new setting. I had been hiking in the Canadian Rockies at the time. Among the rocks climbing up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, a new setting, new character and new geologic time period popped into my head and Wakawakaloch was born.”

For that matter, we don’t see a lot of cavepeople books that aren’t about inventing something for the first time (or, for some reason, pets).

The trailer was what truly convinced me to do a reveal today, though. This is good stuff. Take it away, Chana!

Many thanks to HMH and Chana for today’s reveal. Thanks too to those kids in the vid. And as an extra sidenote, for those of you who stumble over the pronunciation of different authors and illustrators’ names, you can always go to Teachingbooks.net to use the Author’s Name Pronunciation Guide. Names can be hard. Pronouncing them shouldn’t have to be.

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About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. This book looks fascinating for the reasons you mention, including its Neanderthal setting. What is most striking to me, however, is that the author has specifically associated the story with her unpronounceable Jewish name, yet in the book, the character is generic. You mention the wonderful picture book, “Alma.” In that story, the little girl is proudly Hispanic. At the same time, any child could relate to its message of positive feelings about his or her ancestry. Stiefel made a different choice, one which may be significant. It certainly looks like a fun book and I am eager to read it.

  2. annette says:

    So fascinating.

  3. A picture book that talks specifically about how to pronounce the protagonist’s name? What immediately came to my mind was “My Name Is Sangoel” by Karen Lynn Williams

  4. This looks wonderful! The video was so cute, too.

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