Alma and How She Got Her Name


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  • PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press
  • RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018
  • AUTHOR: Juana Martinez-Neal
  • ILLUSTRATOR: Juana Martinez-Neal
  • AGE LEVEL: 4-8, 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-9355-8 (English Hardcover)

What’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells a vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.

In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own name or origin story.

See Spanish Hardcover


Worth Mentioning

★ ALA Caldecott Honor 2019

★ Ezra Jack Keats Award Writer Honor 2019

★ NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children Recommended Title 2019

★ ILA Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Awards – Primary Fiction Honor 2019

★ Américas Book Award Commended Title 2019

★ NCSS and CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2019

★ ILA CLRSIG Notable Books for a Global Society 2019

★ Children’s Literature Assembly Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Award Books 2019

★ Texas Library Association 2×2 Reading List 2019

★ ALSC Notable Children’s Book 2019

★ Kansas National Education Association 2019 Kansas State Reading Circle Catalog – “Best of the Best” selection

★ Illinois Monarch Award Master List 2019-2020

★ Tejas Star Reading List 2019-2020

★ We Are Kidlit Collective Summer Reading List 2019

★ Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Books of the Year 2019

★ Bank Street College of Education The Best Children’s Picture Books of the Year in Spanish 2019

★ Star of the North Nominee 2019-2020

★ Great Texas Mosquito List 2019-2020 Master List

★ Cybils 2018 Fiction Picture Book Finalist

★ SLJ Best Books 2018

★ ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice 2018

★ New York Public Library Best Books of 2018

★ Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2018

★ Evanston Public Library 101 Great Books for Kids 2018

★ ABA 2018 ABC Best Books for Young Readers

★ Nerdy Book Club Award Fiction Picture Book 2018

★ Bookstagram Choice Award Best Own Voice Picture Book 2018

★ Indiana Library Federation 2019 Read Alouds Too-Good-To Miss: Ageless

★ Pima County Public Library Southwest Books of the Year 2018

★ Amazon 2018 Best Books of the Year so Far

★ Kids’ IndieNext TOP 10 Spring 2018

★ A Junior Library Guild Primary Spanish Selection

★ 2018 Society of Illustrators Original Art Selection



Publishers Weekly:

★ Martinez-Neal’s first outing as an author is a winner—her (…) pencil drawings (…) teem with emotional intimacy. It’s an origin story that envelopes readers like a hug. —Starred review


★ 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. —Starred review

School Library Journal:

★ The softly colored images and curvilinear shapes that embrace the figures evoke a sense of warmth and affection (…) A beautifully illustrated, tender story to be shared with all children —Starred review


Mostly monochromatic against a cream background, the illustrations (…) are delightful, capturing the distinctive essences of Alma’s many namesakes. A celebration of identity, family and belonging.

The Horn Book:

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 Wall Street Journal:

Like artifacts, the names that parents give children often have stories to tell. 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 (…) this is a tender outing for children ages 4-8.

Shelf Awareness:

With each ancestral tale, Alma enthusiastically underscores her direct connections to her familial inheritance (…) 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.

Story Monsters Ink:

A great book for introducing family history and the importance of our place within it.


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Book Extras

ADL Educator Discussion Guide Anti Defamation League – Educator Discussion Guide
Guide created by Anti Defamation League. Direct download from ADL’s site

ADL Parent/Family Discussion Guide Anti Defamation League – Parent/Family Discussion Guide
Guide created by Anti Defamation League. Direct download from ADL’s site

SLJ The Stories That Shape Us School Library Journal – The Stories That Shape Us
Teaching Ideas for Alma and How She Got Her Name. Direct link to SLJ’s site

RIF Literacy Central Reading is Fundamental Literacy Central – Support Materials for Alma and How She Got Her Name
Support Materials for Alma and How She Got Her Name. Direct link to RIF’s site

Reading Across America Reading Across America – Activities for Elementary Students
Support Materials for Alma and How She Got Her Name. Direct link to RAA’s site


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