My Name is Sangoel by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed, illustrated by Catherine Stock
Sangoel’s father died in the war in Sudan and now he and his mother and sister are refugees headed for America. Sangoel has little more than his name to take with him. The family is put in a small apartment, dressed in donated clothing, and Sangoel starts school. But no one ever says his name right. They all say San-go-el and Sangoel worries that he has lost his name entirely. That’s when Sangoel has a great idea and creates a t-shirt that uses symbols to tell them how to pronounce his name: a sun and a goal. The children understand immediately and all of them start to create their own symbols for their names.
This book concisely and concretely tells the story of a young refugee. Though his life circumstances may seem distant and unique, readers will immediately relate to having their name pronounced incorrectly and the frustration and dilemma that it causes. Williams and Mohammed have written just the right situation here to make Sangoel relatable and his circumstances universal. They also explore the dizzying changes a refugee faces from not knowing how to cross the road to dealing with new appliances. Stock’s illustrations are paintings that are colorful and realistic. They work well with the story, as Sangoel and his family struggle to understand the new land they are in.
This is not an ideal story time book, rather it is best for longer discussions, building understanding, and learning about the world. This would be well-used as a featured book in a unit or in a setting that allows discussion. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from book received from publisher.