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Juana Martinez-Neal makes her debut as both author and illustrator with the critically-lauded Alma and How She Got Her Name. Gorgeously illustrated, poignant, and starring an endearing protagonist, Martinez-Neal’s notable picture book is not to be missed.
When readers meet Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, she is writing her name and requires two pieces of paper- taped together- to get her full name down! We learn that she considers her name to be “too long, if you asked her”. She approaches her dad and reiterates her stance that her name is just too long and that “it never fits”. Her dad responds by taking a photo album off of a shelf: “…Let me tell you the story of your name. Then you decide if it fits”. Beginning with the name Sofia, and ending with the name Alma, Alma and her dad take a look at a photograph of each namesake and speak in a brief and thoughtful fashion about each respective relative- whether personal notes about their interests, their beliefs, their crafts, etc. At each name, Alma thinks about how remarkable it is that some parts of her relatives’ personalities and passions are somehow reflected in her or even an intrinsic part of her own person! As one can imagine, the more Alma hears from her father about her family’s history, the more her consideration and awe about her namesakes blossoms, as does her own sense of self and the uniqueness of her story.
A picture book that packs meaning, nostalgia, and general loveliness within its pages, Juana Martinez-Neal’s Alma and How She Got Her Name is an all-around wonderful read- beautifully told, beautifully illustrated (I am just in love with the art)- that also offers inspiration for readers. I have been reading this book with my three year old and she not only enjoys hearing about Alma’s name, but also hearing the stories behind her own full name which has quite a bit of family history nestled within it! Due to its more concise text length, I could see Alma and How She Got Her Name being used with a smaller Kindergarten and up group (or really, with any group of children perhaps working on family trees, or studying their own family!). Be sure to read “A Note from Juana” at the end of the book; Martinez-Neal talks about her own name’s history, as well as offering some related prompts for writing or discussion!
-Michelle @ Fab Book Reviews
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.
I teach kindergarten and part of the curriculum is learning about ourselves. In looking for name books I found most of them involved the child being mocked for their name and that's just not something I want to bring into my room. This book is different - it celebrates all of her names as well as the relationships between Alma and her grandmother telling the story. My class enjoyed reading it and doing a follow-up activity at home to learn the origin of their name.
Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela thinks her name is too long. Her father explains the significance of each of these names, instilling a sense of family pride and honour. The name "Alma" is just for her, however, to make and create her own story. Absolutely wonderful story.
Alma thinks her name is too long. Then she learns how her parents chose her special name for her. Used this book in a playgroup for young children along with name recognition, pre-print and fine motor activities.
I used this book in my English class with Japanese 5th grade elementary school students to expand on the topic of 'names'. The textbook section on this topic is a bit dry and boring so this book really helped interest the students. They really enjoyed the story and it allowed them to connect with the topic and understand how Alma was named after various family members. Great book!
I love this story! I have the paperback in my classroom but decided to buy the Kindle Version for virtual learning. It is a beautiful story that can springboard a conversation about our names and where they come from. Perfect story for the beginning of the year and for building community! The Kindle version displayed beautifully on the Kindle App on my laptop.