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Jane Leacock Stidolph


October 5, 2019

Picture Book Analysis


Critical Perspectives
Jane Leacock Stidolph

October 5, 2019

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, is the story of Unhei (Yoon-hye), a


young Korean girl. She and her family have moved to America. When she
starts at a new school, she begins to wonder if she needs a new name
too. Her classmates try and help her, but she doesn’t know what name to
choose.

It is important to examine and analyze multicultural texts, such as


The Name Jar, from a critical perspective. This can be done by:

1. Taking a close look at illustrations

2. Examining the storyline and character relationships

3. Engaging social change

4. Connecting to social eras

5. Examinig the author & illustrator’s perspectives

At the heart of this story is the question of difference and identity.


The author is challenging the reader to to examine Unhei’s dilemna. Is it
good or bad to be different? How do we respond when we encounter
difference? Is a name something more than just a word? How closely is a
person’s identity connected to their name? What are the implications of
changing your name?

The theme of difference is seen when closely examining Choi’s


illustrations. Through her expressive paintings, the reader can see Unhei’s
anxiety on the bus when children make fun of her name and
mispronounce it. Once she reaches the classroom however, you can see
that she is welcomed and her classmates are genuinely concerned about
Unhei finding her name.
Jane Leacock Stidolph

October 5, 2019

Examining the storyline and character relationships, the


reader is asked to consider cultural assimilation. For example, changing
one’s name. The author shows Unhei’s struggle with this issue. She wants
to fit in with her new school and not be teased. However, the reader sees
that she is tied to her identity and family culture through her name stamp.
Jane Leacock Stidolph

October 5, 2019

Although The Name Jar does not connect to social eras, it does
engage social change. The author addresses social identity and how we
define ourselves in relation to others. Unhei changes how she introduces
herself throughout the story. After being ridiculed on the bus, she tells
her class she does not yet have a name. She tells Mr. Kim her real name,
then finally shares her name choice with her class. Each situation
encourages the reader to examine Unhei’s behavior and how we support
or deny a person’s opportunity to develop their own identity.

Finally, in examining the author and illustrator’s perspective you


learn Yangsook Choi draws from her own experience in writing The Name
Jar as she herself grew up in Korea. Researching the author and illustrator
online it is clear she has made a career of writing award winning
children’s literature that focuses on celebrating different cultural
traditions.

Examining children’s literature from a critical perspective is


important. The Name Jar asks the reader to examine how we welcome
and celebrate our difference and identity. The author is inviting us to
examine how it feels to be different and in what ways we should respond
to difference when we encounter it. We each have a richness and
strength that is of value. Our difference broadens our perspective and
lives.