Review of Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma and How She Got Her Name
by Juana Martinez-Neal; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
4/18    978-0-7636-9355-8    $15.99
Spanish ed.  978-0-7636-9358-9    $15.99

Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela feels self-conscious about her long name until her father tells her about the family members she is named after. Use of the past tense indicates that her grandparents, a great-aunt, and a great-grandparent are deceased, but they are very much alive in Alma, who delightedly exclaims the ways in which she is like them as her father recounts their accomplishments and attributes. Straightforward text describes one ancestor who was especially spiritual and another who was an activist, one who loved books and flowers, and another who longed to travel. Throughout, grayscale print transfer illustrations have a soft visual texture, and subtle colored-pencil highlights in pink and blue hues 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. Details in the illustrations also point toward specificity of the family’s Peruvian heritage. An author’s note reveals the story of Martinez-Neal’s own full name, asking readers, “What is the story of your name? What story would you like to tell?”

From the May/June 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: Making a Difference.
Megan Dowd Lambert
Megan Dowd Lambert

Megan Dowd Lambert is an instructor at Simmons University’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. For nearly ten years she also worked in the education department of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

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