My Name Is Hamburger
Say your name with pride!
Trudie Hamburger is the only Jewish kid living in the small southern town of Colburn in 1962. Nobody else at her school has a father who speaks with a German accent or a last name that means chopped meat. Trudie doesn’t want to be the girl who cries when Daniel Reynolds teases her. Or the girl who hides in the library to avoid singing Christian songs in music class. She doesn’t want to be different. But over the course of a few pivotal months, as Trudie confronts her fears and embraces what she loves—including things that make her different from her classmates—she finally finds a way to say her name with pride.
|Interest Level||Grade 3 - Grade 7|
|Reading Level||Grade 4|
|Category||Diverse Books: Celebrating Differences , Diversity, SEL: A Self-Awareness, SEL: B Self-Management, SEL: C Social Awareness, SEL: D Relationship Skills, Social Emotional Learning|
|Publisher||Lerner Publishing Group|
|Imprint||Kar-Ben Publishing ®|
|Number of Pages||240|
Author: Jacqueline Jules
Jacqueline Jules is an award-winning author and poet. Her many children's books include The Hardest Word (National Jewish Book Award finalist), What a Way to Start the New Year! A Rosh Hashanah Story, and Moses and the Runaway Lamb. She lives in Long Island, New York.
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The title of Jacqueline Jules’s highly recommended new novel-in-verse reflects the ironies of growing up Jewish in a small southern town in the mid – twentieth century. Trudie Hamburger has loving parents and close friends. Her father’s German accent and her family’s obvious distance from their church-attending neighbors present challenges; and she is ostracized for her seemingly odd last name. While Trudie’s Jewish home life and synagogue attendance strengthen her identity, the near erasure of her father’s traumatic past leaves a gap in her understanding. Jules’s tone is understated, invoking a specific time and place, but it encourages today’s young readers to identify with and learn from Trudie’s experience.
Adults sharing this middle-grade novel with their children and students will connect with cultural touchstones of the era, from popular music to books. Jules, a librarian as well as an author, captures the literary tastes of a bookish girl, with references to the Half Magic series and biographies of iconic women. Young readers, even if unfamiliar with these allusions, will appreciate the way that the book places Trudie’s dilemma in an era that is different but still recognizable. Trudie feels hurt when other girls exclude her, frustrated by injustices that appear in school and at home. Not only that, her mother’s constant attention to Trudie’s younger brother, who was born prematurely, provokes some resentment.
The antisemitism at the core of the story is not violent, nor is it obviously menacing. It is a painful subtext underlying Trudie’s emotional responses. Her last name matches the most identifiably American food and, at the same time, marks her as foreign. Some of the prejudice she encounters is passive, such as the classmate who will not invite her to an exclusive country club. But one fellow student hurls taunts at her, comparing her to ”chopped meat.” Worse, adults in positions of authority sometimes abuse their power. The music teacher exiles Trudie from class rather than modifying her selections of Christian songs. Even though Trudie finds refuge in the library with Mrs. Bryan, who encourages and supports her, her isolation differentiates her from the rest of her community. When an Asian American boy moves to the town, he and Trudie bond over their love of reading, and she also finds the courage to challenge his marginalization.
Hoping to protect her, Trudie’s parents have left a great deal unsaid about the missing members of her father’s family. She questions the vague explanation that “Daddy’s family didn’t ‘make it out.’ No one wants to explain to kids what that means.” Trudie is torn between her determination to one day learn the truth and her desire to spare her father any further suffering. As the story’s events unfold, Trudie’s family, and even some of their neighbors, are forced to recognize the dangers of projecting their fears onto anyone perceived as different. As a result, Jules strikes a careful balance between a universal message and Trudie’s individual environment. The awkward dissonance between her name and the place she calls home does not defeat her; readers know that she will put past and present together and find her way forward.
“A historically accurate portrayal of many families’ Jewish American experience in the mid-twentieth century, with themes of antisemitism and anti-immigration that are relevant to today…a welcome addition to the canon of children’s novels in verse about the immigrant experience in America.”―Association of Jewish Libraries