Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Alma and How She Got Her Name is a beautiful family story

Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal, (Apr. 2018, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-9355-8

Recommended for readers 4-8

Alma is a little girl with a big name: Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela! She asks her Daddy how she ended up with six names, and her dad tells her the beautiful story behind each name.

I adore this book. So many of us have interesting origins for our names: some of us are named for family members; some for historical figures; some, just because our parents really thought the names were cool and interesting. Here, little Alma learns, through beautifully illustrated spreads, about her family history and her place within that history. We tend to put our hopes and dreams into a child’s name; Alma reveals those inspiring stories through Alma’s father, as he tells Alma her own story.

The drawings are largely monochromatic; black pencil on ivory pages, with washed reds and pinks (and the occasional blue) to liven things up. The names get star treatment, with beautiful, expressive fonts and pictures of namesakes throughout.

I can’t say enough good things about Alma. She belongs in every storytime and every shelf, because every family deserves to explore their history together. Candlewick has a great activity kit that will help kids create their own family trees and research their name(s); it’s free for downloading through their site.

Alma and How She Got Her Name has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal. The book is available in English and Spanish.


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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