by Juana Martinez-Neal (Author) Juana Martinez-Neal (Illustrator)
A 2019 Caldecott Honor Book
What's in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from -- and who she may one day be.
If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all -- and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.
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Her full name is Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela, and it's so long that "it never fits," as the girl explains to her father. (When she writes it on a sheet of paper, she has to tape an extra piece to the bottom.) But as Daddy explains that there's a remarkable relative behind each of her names, Alma realizes that she embodies their talents and character, and she comfortably communes with the spirits of the departed. She loves to draw like her paternal grandfather, Jose, and she's so inspired by her activist maternal grandmother, Candela, that she strikes the classic Norma Rae pose and declares "I am Candela!" surrounded by her stuffed animals. Best of all, Daddy concludes, she is "the first and only Alma. You will make your own story." Martinez-Neal's first outing as author is a winner--her velvety and largely monochromatic pencil drawings, punctuated with cherry red, teem with emotional intimacy. It's an origin story that envelops readers like a hug. Ages 4-8. Agent: Stefanie Von Borstel, Full Circle Literary. (Apr.)Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
PreS-Gr 2--It's said there's a story behind every name and Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela is surely a moniker worthy of six tales. After complaining that her name is so long that it "never fits," Alma's father shares stories with the girl about the people she's been named after, including a book lover, an artist, and a deeply spiritual woman, among others. Martinez-Neal, the recipient of the 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for La Princesa and the Pea, works in print transfers with graphite and colored pencils for these images, limiting her palette to black, charcoal gray, and blushes of color. The round, stylized figure of the girl, dressed in pink striped pants and a white shirt, pops against the sepia pages (reminiscent of old, family photo albums). As Alma's namesakes emerge from the shadows when they are introduced, they and their distinguishing items (books, plants, paintbrushes, etc.) are highlighted in a pale, gray-blue. The softly colored images and curvilinear shapes that embrace the figures evoke a sense of warmth and affection. At the story's end, the only tale readers have not heard is Alma's. "You will make your own story," states her father. VERDICT A beautifully illustrated, tender story to be shared with all children, sure to evoke conversations about their names.--Daryl Grabarek, School Library JournalCopyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.