What’s in a Name

-posted by Meghan

While I am a huge Shakespeare buff, and defer to the Bard in most things (that don’t relate to the sexist and racist notions common in his time), I do take issue with this:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

I think that our name, for all of us, is a key piece of our identity.  I feel that for myself, and I certainly see it in my children.  I think a literary quote that is more accurate is from Madeleine L’Engle, from A Wrinkle in Time:

“If your name isn’t known, that’s a very lonely feeling.”

Not only do I, and my children, respond to and feel ownership when our name is spoken to us, we sense camaraderie in someone else who shares our name, whether in life or in books.  We had a book with a Molly character in it, quite by chance, and it bothered Jacob so much that there was no Jacob in it that we had to re-name one of the characters “Jacob.”  (He made me get a pen, and write it in above the other name, so I wouldn’t forget to read it that way, though Molly said I couldn’t cross the original name out, so we would also know how it was supposed to be!)  So we made a point of looking for books with characters who shared their names, and they really adore those books.

I thought I’d share with you both the idea of looking for books that feature your child’s name to see how they respond, and also give you some examples of the books our family loves that features our names. (Ironically, my husband who does not like his name, doesn’t like books with characters who share his name.)

Molly – Molly’s favorite Molly characters are the ones in Tough Chicks by Cece Meng, What’s the Big Idea, Molly? by Valeri Gorbachev (and Molly Who Flew Away) and My Name is Not Isabella by Jennifer Fosberry (because her middle name is Isabelle, and this is about the “toughest, bravest, smartest, etc” girl in the world).

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Jacob – Jacob has a few favorites too.  The one that gets the most reads is Jacob’s Tree by Holly Keller, since it’s about a Jacob who wants to get bigger, and measures himself on a special tree.  We have a growth chart in their room, and every time we read the book, my Jacob runs to see if he’s gotten taller yet, either.  We also like Jacob O’Reilly Wants a Pet by Lynne Rickards and Jacob and the Magic Feather by Deborah Hartman, which is not only about a Jacob, but a Jacob who goes hiking in the White Mountains in NH, which is where I grew up, so both Jacob and I feel a special connection to this book.

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And, just in case you have a Meghan (Megan, Margaret-called-Meg, etc.) in the family, here are my own favorites: Meg Murray O’Keeffe from Madeleine L’Engle’s series, Meg March Brooks from Little Women, and of course Meg from the Meg & Mog books (a delightful little witch and her cat).

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We could go on and on – when my cousin had a second daughter, my Mom (Ruth) found the perfect big sister present for the elder daughter: a book called Hazel’s Amazing Mother by Rosemary Wells.  It was adored by our Hazel, who loved seeing the fact that her Mommy loved her in print.

So try finding a literary hero or heroine that shares the name of your little one.   And if you get stumped, let us know!  Maybe we can think of one…

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