An honest #OwnVoices story about growing up with a name that is unfamiliar to the kids around you, told with humor and heart by critically acclaimed author/illustrator Thao LamEven though it’s only four simple, familiar letters long, nobody can ever pronounce Thao’s name. She’s been called Theo, Tail, even Towel! But the teasing names—Tofu, Tiny, China Girl—are worse. Maybe it’s time to be someone else? Thao decides to try on a different name, something easy, like Jennifer.
It works, but only until she opens her lunchbox to find her mother’s Vietnamese spring rolls, gỏi cuốn—Thao’s favorite! Now, it feels a lot more comfortable to be herself.
Simple on the surface, this story inspired by Thao’s own childhood is full of humor, heart, and important ideas of diversity, inclusion, and cultural pride. The story will be instantly relatable to readers who have ever felt different.
Designed with a playful emphasis on typography, and Thao’s own childhood photos added to her signature cut-paper collage, THAO champions being true to yourself and your background, and being empathetic towards others. It is a celebration of all that’s in a name and the power of owning your identity.
THAO LAM is the critically acclaimed author/illustrator of THAO, Wallpaper, My Cat Looks Like My Dad, Skunk on a String, and The Paper Boat, named a best book of 2020 by Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal, the Globe and Mail, CBC, and others . She studied illustration at Sheridan College and has an insatiable love of colored and textured papers, which she uses to create her exuberant collages. She draws inspiration from the stories she hears, from the beauty in everyday things, and from the work of the many illustrators she admires. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
"Anyone in an unfamiliar environment will be able to relate... This work’s clever construction and stark simplicity embody a kaleidoscope of 'mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.'" - Kirkus Reviews
"Collage illustrations combine a paper cast with trimmed snapshots of Thao herself, a visual strategy that grounds the story in an all-too-real past and underscores her unassailable pride in identity. This is a genial but pointed primary-grade reminder that names matter, and names deserve respect." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Lam depicts young Thao’s predicament using visual precision and detail in her text and illustrations, delivering her message without fuss or complication and with a touch of humor." - Booklist
"The autobiographical element here adds a distinctively personal inflection. A lighthearted assertion of identity, particularly strong on appeal for younger children who have had to adjust to the demands of white American culture." - School Library Journal
"Exquisite collaged art mixed with photographs ... Nothing is 'foreign' if you take time to know it, and the deeply touching THAO soars through its eloquent understatement of this truth."
- The New York Times
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