Bedtime Stories highlights Children’s Books with a diverse, global perspective.
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.
Alma and How She Got Her Name, from Candlewick Press, is the debut of Juana Martinez-Neal as author-illustrator and, though it isn’t my typical fairytale fare for this column, there is nothing more powerful than the telling of your own story.
Alma and How She Got Her Name is an important story about both how our names have histories and how we can create our own stories. Told through almost hazy artwork in soft pinks, grays, and blues, this is a story that, though told by a father, is filtered through the eyes of a very young girl, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela. Alma is frustrated by the fact that her name just doesn’t seem to fit. And though she seems to be talking about how it doesn’t fit on the page, her truth is that she isn’t quite sure if it fits her. Thus begins her father’s tale of the people for whom Alma was named: the grandmother who loved flowers and books, the great-grandmother who dreamed of traveling the world, the grandfather who was an artist, and more. Through these stories Alma learns who her family was and her connection to them, not just through her name, but through the things that she loves herself. I was absolutely charmed by this beautiful book and it inspired me to reminisce about my own name, and those of my children, and how they forge the connections in my own family’s story.
Alma and How She Got Her Name is the perfect book to open a conversation between parents and their little ones, whether their own names are from family, friends, or perhaps a favorite book. Suitable for children ages 4-8.