Alma and How She Got Her Name

by Juana Martinez-Neal (Author) Juana Martinez-Neal (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

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.


Find books about:

Kirkus Reviews

"A celebration of identity, family and belonging. (Picture book. 4-8)"

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

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.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

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 Journal

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Martinez-Neal brings her gentle story to life through beautiful graphite and colored pencil artwork, set against cream-colored backgrounds. Soft blue and red details pop against the charcoal scenes, which perfectly reflect the snapshots of Alma's family. While Alma feels enriched by learning her family's history, she is also empowered by the knowledge that she will give her name, Alma, its own story.
—Booklist (starred review)

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.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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. A beautifully illustrated, tender story to be shared with all children, sure to evoke conversations about their names.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Mostly monochromatic against a cream background, the illustrations—print transfers with graphite and colored pencils—are delightful, capturing the distinctive essences of Alma's many namesakes...A celebration of identity, family and belonging.
—Kirkus Reviews

Throughout, grayscale print transfer illustrations have a soft visual texture, and subtle colored-pencil highlights in pinks and blues enliven each spread. The pictures end up stealing the show in their depiction of the sweet closeness between Alma and her father. They also convey a subtle, supernatural connection between Alma and her ancestors, whose images in the family photos make eye contact with her outside of her father's awareness.
—The Horn Book

As artist, her mostly black-and-white graphite and colored pencil drawings with splashes of red (suggesting now) and blue (capturing then) provide an additional, enhancing narrative: the family's Peruvian roots, Alma's avian and floral interests, her bilingual drawings, her historically inspired style sense, even a peek at Esperanza's worldly treasures...Names are so much more than a collection of letters and sounds, Martinez-Neal reminds. The book's final words, "What story would you like to tell?" become an invitation for readers to share and claim each of their own, distinctive stories, histories and identities.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers

Every piece of Alma's name, she discovers, comes to her from someone in her family, and, as she and her father talk, Alma feels a new sense of connection...Touching on cultural themes central to the recent Pixar movie "Coco," this is a tender outing for children ages 4-8.
—The Wall Street Journal

A great book for introducing family history and the importance of our place within it.
—Story Monsters Ink
Juana Martinez-Neal
Juana Martinez-Neal is the Peruvian-born daughter and granddaughter of painters. Her debut as an author-illustrator, Alma and How She Got Her Name, was awarded a Caldecott Honor and was published in Spanish as Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre. She also illustrated La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, for which she won a Pura Belpré Illustrator Award, Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, and Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard, which won a Robert F. Sibert Medal. Juana Martinez-Neal lives in Connecticut with her family. Visit her online at www.juanamartinezneal.com.
Classification
Fiction
ISBN-13
9780763693558
Lexile Measure
490L
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publisher
Candlewick Press (MA)
Publication date
April 20, 2018
Series
-
Caldecott Medal
Honor Book 2019 - 2019

Subscribe to our delicious e-newsletter!