The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name

Abrams. Jan. 2023. 40p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781419761584.
K-Gr 3–The opening line, and one that must rehearsed so that it will ring out at story hours, is “My name is Zimdalamashkermishkada.” Zim, as he decides he should be called, is very shy about how much space his name takes up. It is a name like “shoelaces that trip” him up every day and he needs a name he can “catch with one hand” in the air. The poetry of Parappukkaran’s text shows that this is a problem long considered, and readers will be rooting for Zimdalamashkermishkada from the very first page. In Pereira’s graceful illustrations, he is a boy with a flop of black hair, warm brown skin, in shorts and chunky brown shoes, who watches birds eat seeds and seems in every way kind. But shrinking his name in the dryer does not work, nor does folding it up like origami, and in one moment, it blows up like a puffer fish. Only by practicing his skateboard turns with new friend Elly, as she, in parallel, practices the twists and turns of his name, can he step up and embrace fully his moniker. Spelling it out here makes it seem much clumsier than it is handled in the lilting text, which trusts readers with the subtext of a blossoming understanding between the two. There is also a sweet subplot of pastry cooking taking place in Zim’s home that may give way to classroom demonstrations.
VERDICT For intercultural sharing, for awakening compassion, for tending empathy, or the SEL shelves, this story has many uses and should not be missed.

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