Thao

An honest #OwnVoices story about growing up with a name that is unfamiliar to the kids around you, told with humor and heart by critically acclaimed author/illustrator Thao Lam

Even though it’s only four simple, familiar letters long, nobody can ever pronounce Thao’s name. She’s been called Theo, Tail, even Towel! But the teasing names—Tofu, Tiny, China Girl—are worse. Maybe it’s time to be someone else? Thao decides to try on a different name, something easy, like Jennifer.

It works, but only until she opens her lunchbox to find her mother’s Vietnamese spring rolls, gỏi cuốn—Thao’s favorite! Now, it feels a lot more comfortable to be herself.

Simple on the surface, this story inspired by Thao’s own childhood is full of humor, heart, and important ideas of diversity, inclusion, and cultural pride. The story will be instantly relatable to readers who have ever felt different.

Designed with a playful emphasis on typography, and Thao’s own childhood photos added to her signature cut-paper collage, THAO champions being true to yourself and your background, and being empathetic towards others. It is a celebration of all that’s in a name and the power of owning your identity.

Written and Illustrated by

Thao Lam

Published

April 15, 2021 with Owlkids Books

Notable reviews

  • “Exquisite collaged art mixed with photographs … Nothing is ‘foreign’ if you take time to know it, and the deeply touching THAO soars through its eloquent understatement of this truth.” — The New York Times
  • “Exquisite … A story that will resonate with children who find fitting in a challenge.” — The Globe and Mail
  • “Lam depicts young Thao’s predicament using visual precision and detail in her text and illustrations, delivering her message without fuss or complication and with a touch of humor.” — Booklist
  • “The autobiographical element here adds a distinctively personal inflection. A lighthearted assertion of identity, particularly strong on appeal for younger children who have had to adjust to the demands of white American culture.” — School Library Journal
  • “Anyone in an unfamiliar environment will be able to relate.” — Kirkus Reviews

Awards and honours

  • A Junior Library Guild selection, 2021
  • A CBC Best Canadian Picture Book, 2021
  • A New York Public Library Vibrant Voices selection, 2022
  • A Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, 2022
  • A USBBY Outstanding Books List selection, 2022
  • A CCBC Best Books for Kids and Teens selection, 2021

Contact Thao Lam

Illuminate stories with vibrant artwork, turning narratives into visual wonders. Let's bring your tales to life—reach out for unique illustrations!