The Name Soup, by Sandhya Sameera Pillalamarri | Dedicated Review
By Sandhya Sameera Pillalamarri, Illustrated by Red Hansen
Age Range: 7 and up
Hardcover: 104 pages
Publisher: Lion Heart Books (November 10, 2014)
What to Expect: Family, Ancestors, Adversity, Culture, Diversity, Friendships, Genealogy, Etymology, Courage
In Sandhya Sameera Pillalamarri’s The Name Soup, readers meet Leela Kongkitisoupchai, a cheery eight-year-old girl who lives in Sedona, Arizona with her parents and grandmother. As with many children her age, she is excited about the start of second grade, when she can reunite with old friends and meet new ones. However, Leela’s expectations for the start of the new year change dramatically in just a few minutes into the first day of school and she is forced to learn some difficult, but powerful, lessons about what being different means.
Mrs. Adams, Leela’s teacher, is conducting roll call and after zipping through the first few names, she stumbles on Leela’s complex last name, which was nothing new for Leela. However, what Leela does experience for the first time, is teasing by her classmates for her unusual last name—a very upsetting, embarrassing, and confusing experience. Later in the day, a despondent Leela runs errands with her mom and through a series of encounters with friends and classmates, she learns that last names are more than letters strewn together, they can have meaning and symbolism about a family and their history. And after an inspiring talk with her grandmother, Leela finds answers about her own genealogy and etymology, which allow her to rebound past her traumatic first day of school experience.
The Name Soup is a meaningful story about how to view and approach differences in people. Through Leela’s story, Pillalamarri demonstrates that while being different can feel like an unwanted burden, they deserve to be explored, understood and celebrated, which can lead to new-found joy and discoveries. Leela is endearing, spunky, and courageous and stands as a wonderful example of how to overcome challenges that many school aged children experience.
The Name Soup is an encouraging story for children and is a poignant read for young students and teachers learning to build tolerance and gain insights within classrooms. In addition, The Name Soup’s focus on diversity, genealogy, and etymology offers a great platform for discussion on family history and family trees, a topic that interests many young readers in our increasingly diverse classrooms. These valuable lessons, coupled with short but well developed chapters, interactive exercises at the end of the book, and expressive illustrations by Red Hansen make The Name Soup a worthwhile read.
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Read The Children’s Book Review’s interview with Sandhya Sameera Pillalamarri.
About the Author
SANDHYA S. PILLALAMARRI has always had a unique last name. And she is quite proud of it. When she isn’t busy researching names, Sandhya can be found leading the research and evaluation strategy for a world premier educational technology and learning company. Sandhya has worked for multinational corporations in various leadership and consultative roles, driving product design & user experience for top digital and physical consumer products. She has studied computer science from Arizona State University, human computer interaction from Carnegie Mellon University and management, strategy and operations from Harvard University. Sandhya can be found cooking, reading and pronouncing her toddler’s Sanskrit name somewhere in the suburbs of Boston, MA. This is her first book.
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