The Mystery Hidden in a Name

Children - Educational
24 Pages
Reviewed on 08/23/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite

A young girl learns the story behind her name and why her parents chose it in the children's book The Mystery Hidden in a Name by Kathleen Gorman. One day, Merci's teacher gives her class the assignment to find the meaning behind their given names. At dinner, Merci asks her parents how they chose her name, and she is completely surprised by her father's answer. The source of her name spans several decades, generations and countries, and includes wars, soldiers, France, and trains. Best of all, both her great-grandfathers played a vital part in American history. After completing her homework, Merci better understands her great-grandparents' era and how her family participated in momentous historical events. Now Merci appreciates why her parents chose her name and she is proud of it.

Beautifully depicted, The Mystery Hidden in a Name by Kathleen Gorman is a delightful children's book with an important message. The illustrations are eye-catching and captivating, and the storyline is entertaining and easy to follow. The book poignantly portrays portions of the history of the two World Wars and how the protagonist's great-grandparents played a large part in both. It is an educational story where the historical elements engage and draw the reader into the past. It shows how the wars had devastating effects on several countries and how our nation helped them afterward. I appreciated how the author, Ms. Gorman, included information on the boxcar and its location: it's a nice touch and a welcome supplement to the story. This children's picture book is an excellent addition to a young reader's shelf as it is both educational and fun.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Merci is French for thank you. But Merci is also a name of a little girl. Her teacher has asked all the students to find the meaning and source of their names to share their stories with the class. Merci discovers that she is part of an ongoing link of gratitude between France and the United States for all the Americans did in Europe during the two World Wars. Merci’s great-grandfathers fought in both wars, and they helped the French recover from the devastation caused by these wars, a unifying trade that involved what became known as the Merci Boxcars. So, what’s in a name? Plenty. And Merci has a wonderful story about her name to share with you and with her class in the book The Mystery Hidden in a Name by Kathleen Gorman.

Kathleen Gorman’s picture book story, The Mystery Hidden in a Name, is an exciting way to introduce young readers to a piece of their history, in this case, the First and Second World Wars. The author uses the concept of a person’s name to lead the reader through an interesting story of the name’s origin, in this case, the name Merci. She weaves a fascinating story of devastation and recovery about the Merci Boxcars that connected the United States and France in an everlasting bond of gratitude and respect. It’s an important part of American history, but it also makes for a dramatic tale. The language is simple, and the question/answer approach between father and daughter makes younger readers more comfortable with complex issues. The illustrations are bright and colorful and certainly help carry the story along. This is an interesting part of history that needs to be told repeatedly – even I learned something new. Fascinating!

Jamie Michele

The Mystery Hidden in a Name, written by Kathleen Gorman and illustrated by Bonnie Lemaire, is a children's picture book that revolves around a young girl named Merci. The book begins right in Merci's classroom, where her teacher, Mrs. Fields, has given the class an assignment in which they are to find out as much as they can about their own names. One of her classmates is familiar with the origin story behind his name and his great-uncle, who did not survive the attack on Pearl Harbor. Merci is not aware of any familial link to her name and goes home to ask her parents. Over dinner, Merci's father is able to convey the significance of Merci's name and the honor that such a name embodies.

What a fantastic little book The Mystery Hidden in a Name is! Kathleen Gorman has done an exceptional job weaving a tale that was just as intriguing for me as it was for the young reader who followed along as we tucked her into bed. The balance of crafting an entertaining story with factual historical detail and community pride, particularly its emphasis on the often-overlooked city of Fresno, California, is perfectly executed. Bonnie Lemaire breathes life into the story through whimsical, full-color illustration spreads that allow the reader to peek into Merci's world. I'm not sure I've ever read a children's book and walked away craving the same dinner, but my goodness did that spaghetti and meatballs call to me! I found myself learning about Merci's name right along with her, giving us all a lovely nugget of history wrapped up in a gorgeous book. Very, very highly recommended.