Review Blog

May 17 2018

Alma and how she got her name by Juana Martinez-Neal

cover image

Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9780763693558
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Ancestors. Family. Names. Upset over her very long name, Alma questions her father about why she has been given a name that doesn't fit on her page. He then explains, showing her where each of her names comes from and why she has been given that name. He takes a photo album from the bookshelf and shows Alma some of the reasons she has her names: Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Cabdela.
Sofia is for her grandmother, a woman who taught her father how to read. Esperanza is for her great grandmother, a woman who loved to travel and could not, following her son's voyages on her map. Jose is for his father who taught him to paint and how to to really see people. Each name has a tale to tell, as Alma comes to see the importance of her names and her naming. Each name shows a different aspect of her family and her forebears, and she can see how she gets some of her characteristics, handed down from generations of people who came before her.
Each page is built up with graphite images, enhanced with coloured pencil and print transfers, all done on handmade textured paper. The paper, not quite white, suits the idea of generations coming before, of continuity, of family. I love the repeated stripey trousers that Alma wears, paralleled with one of her ancestors, and the predominance of paintings and books which litter the pages underlining again the continuity of interests and skills which make up her family.
The author's story of her own name follows in an afterword, stressing again the ideas behind the picture book. A wonderful book to use when talking of families and their similarities.
Fran Knight

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