About the Book
Philomena and the Name Game tells the story of an Italian-Haitian-American fourth grader who struggled with accepting her name much of her life because others tended to find it "difficult" to pronounce. As a result, her name gave her anxiety and is something she found to be an inconvenience rather than a positive aspect of her identity. After moving across town, she attended a new school and is faced with a situation similar to others she has experienced in the past, a her classmates struggle with her name. Her new teacher noticed Philomena's obvious discomfort and assigned the class a homework assignment where her and her classmates are tasked with learning about their names. After learning more about her name, she realizes that while it may be challenging for some to pronounce, the history and meaning behind it is special and is something she begins to take pride in.
It is IMPORTANT and POWERFUL for children to open a book and see characters that look like them, speak the same language(s) as them, live in similar spaces to theirs, have shared experiences, etc. Relatable content helps children to develop a strong sense of identity and it also fosters engagement which can lead to a deep love of literacy!
Need for Representation
The reality is, that there are large populations of students who do not relate to the characters and content that we see in the majority of books. For example, according to the Cooperative Children's Book Center (2015), an overwhelming 73.3% of children's books depict main characters that are white, while just 14.2% contain characters that are representative of African/African American, Asian Pacific/ Asian Pacific Americans, LatinX, and/or Indigenous Peoples/Fire Nations populations. In 2018, there was a slight shift in numbers to 50% white, and 23% African/African American, Asian Pacific/ Asian Pacific Americans, LatinX, and/or Indigenous Peoples/Fire Nations populations. Moving forward we must continue to move in this upward trend towards equal and equitable representation.
Empire Orange Publishing is all about intentional choices. For this book, three AMAZINGLY TALENTED art students from Henninger High School located in Syracuse, New York created the illustrations. It is important that we expose our youth to as many opportunities as possible, in order to help cultivate passion and a strong sense of self and knowing. Age, location, race, socio-economic status, etc. should not limit one’s voice and their ability to contribute to the world in a meaningful way!