English & some Vietnamese

3 years & Up



Growing Up


Thao Lam


Thao. Four letters, infinite pronunciation possibilities, much to Thao’s aggravation and dismay. Using a beautiful mix of collage and photos of herself as a child, Thao Lam tells the story of how she became desensitized to people mispronouncing her name and then decided to change it to a more recognizable name to her Canadian classmates and teachers. Suddenly, Jennifer gets ready and goes to school. Jennifer is the one who enjoys science but not math. Will Jennifer stick around?

As someone who also spent much of their childhood being called the wrong name (however without the extremely important immigration and cultural aspect of the story) I can relate very much to the page where Thao can tell that she’s being (wrongly) called for attendance. Thao uses humor to help explain how to pronounce and spell her name, but the emotional toll that it has taken on her is apparent. We can call it many things-xenophobia, Eurocentrism, and racism. All of these intertwine to create an environment where pronouncing certain letter combinations is either not attempted or brushed off as unimportant. The text in Thao may be sparse, but the impact and heft of the story is immeasurable.

This book was kindly sent by OwlKids, but all opinions are my own. I read Thao and Your Name is a Song during a Social Justice Read Aloud, and it was a beautiful pairing!

Thao Lam

Thao Lam has been creating pictures for as long as she can remember. For her, drawing has always felt as natural as breathing. She has an insatiable love for coloured and textured papers, which she uses to create her exuberant collages.

Passionate about children’s books, Thao is especially interested in visual storytelling. She draws inspiration from the stories she hears, from the beauty in everyday things, and from the work of the many illustrators she admires. As an art buyer for an educational publishing company, she has the opportunity to work with thousands of different artists from all around the world.

Since studying illustration for three years at Sheridan College in Toronto, Thao has developed her dual careers of illustrating and art buying. Her art works have appeared in publications such as Cricket and Highlight magazines. In 2008, she won the Highlights Five Pewter Plate award for verse illustration of the year. She has twice been chosen for the American Illustration Awards.

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