About the Holiday
Unique Names Day was established in 1997 by Jerry Hill, a hobbyist in onomatology – the study of the etymology, history, and use of proper names – as part of Celebrate Your Name Week. The holiday celebrates uncommon or uncommonly spelled names and encourages those with unique names to always take pride in their name. One way to enjoy the day is to find out more about your name and how or why your parents chose it. You can have fun with names every day this week. Upcoming are Discover What Your Name Means Day, Nametag Day, Middle Name Pride Day, and Descendent’s Day. You can learn more about each daily holiday at Names Universe.
My Name is Wakawakaloch!
Written by Chana Stiefel | Pictures by Mary Sullivan
Wakawakaloch had a problem. Well, it wasn’t really her problem; none of the kids at school could pronounce or even remember her name. After another day in which her name was mangled (Oog called her “‘Walawala,’” Boog shouted “‘Look out, Wammabammaslamma!’” and Goog cheered her on during Club Club with “‘Swing, Lokamokatok!’”), Wakawakaloch was as angry as an erupting volcano.
When her parents asked what was wrong, Wakawakaloch said she wanted to change her name to Gloop. Pa thought Gloop was a good name, but reminded his daughter that her name had been “‘in family many, many moons.’” But Wakawakaloch was inconsolable. Not only could no one say her name right, but she never found it on any T-shirts. Ma and Pa thought there was only one thing to do—take her to see Elder Mooch.
Despite his leathery skin and aroma of “rotting mammoth poop,” Elder Mooch was an insightful Neanderthal. He started off with an ill-considered joke that set Wakawakaloch reaching for tissues from the nearby dispenser rock. But she poured out her heart and the fact that she wanted an easy name, one found on T-shirts. She could just imagine all of the heroic and adventurous things she could do with a name and T-shirt like that.
Elder Mooch looked at her and then bestowed his wisdom. He told her she was a “‘forward thinker’” but “‘must be a backward seer too.’” This bit of knowledge cost her two pigeons and left her smoldering. What did he mean by that? Later that night as she tossed and turned in bed, she caught a glimpse of the paintings on her wall. They showed her great-great-great-great-great grandmother Wakawakaloch “performing brave and heroic acts…. Little Wakawakaloch placed her hand on the ancient handprint of her mighty namesake. It was a perfect match.”
In the morning, Wakawakaloch was smiling. She no longer wanted to be called Gloop, and she told her parents that she was ready to help others. When the Roll-the-Boulder tournament came round, Wakawakaloch had her personalized T-shirt stand all set. Oog, Boog, and Goog thought her shirts for Chana, Sioban, Xavier, Eoghan were “‘Ooga booga’ (way cool).” Wakawakaloch had even made one for herself. Elder Mooch wanted to buy three, and when little Hoopaloopie came by, Wakawakaloch got to work on another shirt.
For all those kids who never find their names on shirts, mugs, necklaces, keychains, or other personalized items and who frequently hear the question, “How do you pronounce that?,” Chana Stiefel’s book is for you! This fresh tale will also resonate with any child who feels different for any reason. Wakawakaloch, with her strong personality, thoughtful introspection, and creative solution, is a character that readers will love and want to emulate. Stiefel deftly navigates this sensitive landscape with a combination of honest feelings and hilarious mispronunciations, prehistorical details, and descriptions. Readers will laugh all the way through but will also be absorbing the lesson that everyone should embrace their own “mighty” personality and be celebrated and recognized for their unique qualities.
In her vibrant illustrations, Mary Sullivan creates a comically anachronistic ancient world, where safety cones made of stone mark the playground, a stone telescope is aimed out the window, mail is delivered (this part may be accurate, I’d have to check), and cupcakes are eaten with forks. Kids will want to linger over each page to point out all of the funny elements that add depth and glee to this story. Wakawakaloch shows the feelings bubbling up inside her with furrowed brows, livid gestures, and ready tears, while the other kids cluelessly continue to distort her name even after being told the right pronunciation multiple times. Wakawakaloch’s visit to Elder Mooch is a funny take on therapy sessions, but his advice leads to a welcome image of contemplation and realization that makes Wakawakaloch appreciate her family history and also want to contribute to its—and society’s—advancement. Wakawakaloch’s T-shirt booth is sure to inspire kids to make their own shirt too.
A delightfully inventive story with many applications and prompts for further discussion as well as activities celebrating individuality, My Name is Wakawakaloch! will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library shelves.
Ages 4 – 7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328732095
Discover more about Chana Stiefel and her books on her website.
To learn more about Mary Sullivan, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Check out the My Name is Wakawakaloch! “ooga booga” book trailer!
Unique Names Day Activity
Love Your Name Organizer Jar
Everyone needs a place to store their special stuff! Here’s a way to recycle a plastic jar and make a cool organizer jar with your name on it. This organizer jar also makes a great gift for your friends!
- A large plastic jar, such as a peanut butter jar or mayonnaise jar, cleaned out and with the label removed
- Acrylic multi-surface paint or markers
- Chalkboard paint
- Paint brush
- Paint a rectangle on the front of the jar with chalkboard paint
- Decorate the rest of the jar with paint, markers, or paper just the way you want! My green jar sports a friendly dinosaur!
You can find My Name is Wakawakaloch! at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million
To support your local independent bookstore, order from
Picture Book Review