The First Thing My Mama Told Me

Overview

When I was born,
the first thing my mama told me
was my name.
Lucy remembers lots of things about her name. When she was two, Uncle David painted it on her step stool. When she was three, she scribbled it on the floor with an orange crayon. When she was four, she ate her very own plate of L-U-C-Y pancakes, one letter at a time.
Lucy is seven...

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Overview

When I was born,
the first thing my mama told me
was my name.
Lucy remembers lots of things about her name. When she was two, Uncle David painted it on her step stool. When she was three, she scribbled it on the floor with an orange crayon. When she was four, she ate her very own plate of L-U-C-Y pancakes, one letter at a time.
Lucy is seven now. She can reach the sink without a stool, and she doesn't write on the floor anymore. But her name still goes with her everywhere. Lucy loves her nameā€”and she loves Mama and Dad, who chose it just for her.

A New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children's Book for 2002

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Swanson (Letter to the Lake) and Davenier (the Iris and Walter books) make much of a modest premise in this affectionate and inviting tale, in which a seven-year-old remembers the ways her family has celebrated her name. "Lucy," she tells us, was the first word her mother said to her. Her uncle painted her name on a stepstool. Her father made her pancakes in the shapes of the letters: "My name tasted wonderful," she remembers. In Davenier's (the Iris and Walter books) kinetic mixed-media drawing, Lucy stands over the table, looking on with fascination as her father eases a pancake "L" onto her plate. On the opposite page, she sits with her arms around her middle, jam smeared all over her cheeks, eyes closed, with a contented smile on her lips. On her seventh birthday, her family (now including a younger sister) celebrates with a birthday cake out on the porch, and Lucy's mother gives her a flashlight. In a final exuberant spread, Lucy uses the beam of light to write her name across the night sky. Davenier delights in the smears and scribbles Lucy and her sister leave behind. Calligraphic strokes across mirrors, shirts, playgrounds, etc., become signatures of the girls' discovery of the world around them. Like the lived-in look of the art, Swanson's simple, expressive language is just right for the story of a girl whose family adores her, and who grows securely within that love. Ages 3-7. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-A pleasing departure from the trend toward books that deal with a child's dislike of his or her name, this title begins, "When I was born, the first thing my mama told me was my name." Lucy's name comes from a "long-ago word for light" and shines for her as a constant reminder of her uniqueness and special place in the world. It is iced on her first birthday cake, painted on the stool she uses to get a drink of water, and scribbled everywhere her three-year-old hand can reach. Lucy eats pancakes shaped like the letters of her name and later helps her baby sister finish eating the letters of hers. The story ends as the child receives a flashlight for her seventh birthday; she writes her name in light across the sky, and it goes "flying out into the big, starlit night." Davenier's pencil, ink, and pastel illustrations lend a timeless quality, and details in the pictures enhance the telling, from Lucy's name embroidered on her pom-pom cap to her dog licking plates of pancakes and birthday cake. The final spread of Lucy's name in the night sky is the only illustration in which color extends to the edges of the pages, filling them with her exuberance and contentment. This book could be well used as a cozy bedtime story or with a group of preschoolers taking the first important steps toward writing and celebrating their own names, and will make a welcome addition to most collections.-Martha Link, Louisville Free Public Library, KY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Picture books abound about children's identities and self-esteem, but this charmer takes a fresh approach and presents it in a child's first-person voice. What Mama first told the little girl was her name and this becomes the device and unifying thread as she relates her special name memories from birth to age seven. The experiences are familiar: scribbling on the walls (and herself), eating pancake letters of her name, stomping it out in the snow, and having a coat hook in kindergarten with her name above it. Playful subtleties in both text and pictures incorporate a younger sister and the family dog, first seen as a puppy and always chewing or licking plates. What child hasn't written her or his name everywhere including places she shouldn't, or with a flashlight on a starlit sky? In a breezy style of colorful splashes of wash against ecru paper, pencil, ink, and pastel illustrations capture the moments, the childlike simplicity, the exuberance, and the warm family ties. Every child should have such satisfying childhood memories and pride of name as Lucy does. Perfectly intertwined story and pictures are tender and heartwarming and will prompt parents and children to recall their own similar celebrations. (Picture book. 4-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780152010751
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.84 (w) x 11.32 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

SUSAN MARIE SWANSON is a visiting poet in schools and a contributing editor for the Riverbank Review. She lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

CHRISTINE DAVENIER is the illustrator of the award-winning Iris and Walter books, written by Elissa Haden Guest, and many other popular children's books. She lives in Paris, France.

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