When third grader Griffin Silk was born, his dad called him “the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the period at the end of the Silk family, and the icing on the cake.” He was the youngest in a family of six and the only boy; his older sisters, all named for colors (Scarlet, Indigo, Violet, Amber, Saffron), were dubbed the “Rainbow Girls.”
Life turns upside down for Griffin when his parents have another baby. Although he is happy to have a new sister, Griffin grapples with the feeling that he won’t be a “period” anymore. Instead, he’ll be a comma. When tragedy strikes and Griffin’s mother and sister go away, he feels responsible because of his selfish feelings about the baby.
At its heart, Glenda Millard’s The Naming of Tishkin Silk is about finding joy after tragedy. Young readers will become engrossed in the moving tale of the Silk family and delight in a wacky cast of characters. Layla, Griffin’s friend in a school full of bullies, is particularly memorable as she coaxes the Silks to move beyond their loss.
Adults will admire the author’s stunningly simple language and descriptions of scene and personality, which pair nicely with Patrice Barton’s black-and-white drawings. To introduce a flower-bedecked Layla, Millard writes, “A person who believed in the magic of daisies, a person skilled in the art of crown making, was likely to be an uncommon kind of person.” Griffin—himself named for the mythical part-lion, part-eagle—says of “Tishkin,” the name of his lost sister: “That’s the sound I hear the leaves make, when I see her face looking down at me.”
Millard is especially adept at describing the unspoken, such as when Griffin realizes that loved ones don’t need “ears to hear and they don’t need words to talk.” As Layla and his family have taught him, sometimes, “they just know.”
The Naming of Tishkin Silk addresses a heavy topic in a sensitive manner. Young readers will be touched by the quirky and thoughtful personalities of Griffin and Layla and will learn a powerful lesson about family resilience.