Her full name is Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela, and it’s so long that “it never fits,” as the girl explains to her father. (When she writes it on a sheet of paper, she has to tape an extra piece to the bottom.) But as Daddy explains that there’s a remarkable relative behind each of her names, Alma realizes that she embodies their talents and character, and she comfortably communes with the spirits of the departed. She loves to draw like her paternal grandfather, José, and she’s so inspired by her activist maternal grandmother, Candela, that she strikes the classic Norma Rae pose and declares “I am Candela!” surrounded by her stuffed animals. Best of all, Daddy concludes, she is “the first and only Alma. You will make your own story.” Martinez-Neal’s first outing as author is a winner—her velvety and largely monochromatic pencil drawings, punctuated with cherry red, teem with emotional intimacy. It’s an origin story that envelops readers like a hug. Ages 4–8. Agent: Stefanie Von Borstel, Full Circle Literary. (Apr.)
PreS-Gr 2—It's said there's a story behind every name and Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela is surely a moniker worthy of six tales. After complaining that her name is so long that it "never fits," Alma's father shares stories with the girl about the people she's been named after, including a book lover, an artist, and a deeply spiritual woman, among others. Martinez-Neal, the recipient of the 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for La Princesa and the Pea , works in print transfers with graphite and colored pencils for these images, limiting her palette to black, charcoal gray, and blushes of color. The round, stylized figure of the girl, dressed in pink striped pants and a white shirt, pops against the sepia pages (reminiscent of old, family photo albums). As Alma's namesakes emerge from the shadows when they are introduced, they and their distinguishing items (books, plants, paintbrushes, etc.) are highlighted in a pale, gray-blue. The softly colored images and curvilinear shapes that embrace the figures evoke a sense of warmth and affection. At the story's end, the only tale readers have not heard is Alma's. "You will make your own story," states her father. VERDICT A beautifully illustrated, tender story to be shared with all children, sure to evoke conversations about their names.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal
Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has a very long name, and she's about to find out how she came to have it.Alma is a cute little girl with the sweetest pair of striped red-and-white pants ever. She also happens to have a very long name—so long, in fact, that it never fits. Her father sits her down to tell her the story of her name, "Then you decide if it fits." And so Alma learns about her grandmother Sofia; her great-grandmother Esperanza; her grandfather José; her great-aunt Pura; and her other grandmother Candela. And Alma? She learns Alma was picked just for her. "You will make your own story." Peruvian-born Martinez-Neal never expresses it in the text, but the illustrations are filled with references to Peru, the country where Alma's family comes from. Mostly monochromatic against a cream background, the illustrations—print transfers with graphite and colored pencils—are delightful, capturing the distinctive essences of Alma's many namesakes. Alma is depicted as the color of the paper background, with pink cheeks and a black bob haircut. Whereas the story starts with Alma's name written in a childish print on a piece of paper that needs an extra piece of paper taped to it, the story ends with Alma's name in grand and elegant display types. That's her name, and it fits her just right! A Spanish edition, Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre, publishes simultaneously.A celebration of identity, family and belonging. (Picture book. 4-8)
Martinez-Neal brings her gentle story to life through beautiful graphite and colored pencil artwork, set against cream-colored backgrounds. Soft blue and red details pop against the charcoal scenes, which perfectly reflect the snapshots of Alma’s family. While Alma feels enriched by learning her family’s history, she is also empowered by the knowledge that she will give her name, Alma, its own story.
—Booklist (starred review)
Martinez-Neal’s first outing as author is a winner—her velvety and largely monochromatic pencil drawings, punctuated with cherry red, teem with emotional intimacy. It’s an origin story that envelops readers like a hug.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The softly colored images and curvilinear shapes that embrace the figures evoke a sense of warmth and affection. At the story’s end, the only tale readers have not heard is Alma’s. “You will make your own story,” states her father. A beautifully illustrated, tender story to be shared with all children, sure to evoke conversations about their names.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Mostly monochromatic against a cream background, the illustrations—print transfers with graphite and colored pencils—are delightful, capturing the distinctive essences of Alma’s many namesakes...A celebration of identity, family and belonging.
Throughout, grayscale print transfer illustrations have a soft visual texture, and subtle colored-pencil highlights in pinks and blues 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.
—The Horn Book
As artist, her mostly black-and-white graphite and colored pencil drawings with splashes of red (suggesting now) and blue (capturing then) provide an additional, enhancing narrative: the family's Peruvian roots, Alma's avian and floral interests, her bilingual drawings, her historically inspired style sense, even a peek at Esperanza's worldly treasures...Names are so much more than a collection of letters and sounds, Martinez-Neal reminds. The book's final words, "What story would you like to tell?" become an invitation for readers to share and claim each of their own, distinctive stories, histories and identities.
—Shelf Awareness for Readers
Every piece of Alma’s name, she discovers, comes to her from someone in her family, and, as she and her father talk, Alma feels a new sense of connection...Touching on cultural themes central to the recent Pixar movie “Coco,” this is a tender outing for children ages 4-8.
—The Wall Street Journal
A great book for introducing family history and the importance of our place within it.
—Story Monsters Ink