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Alma and How She Got Her Name

Juana Martinez-Neal

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    • Title: Alma and How She Got Her Name
    • 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

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.

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

★ Anna Dewedney Read-Together Honor 2020

★ 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

More Reviews


★ 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

★ 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.

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.

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.

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.

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153 Boston Post Rd Ste 2
East Lyme, CT 06333

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858-824-9269 ext. 2
Full Circle Literary