What is the story behind YOUR name?
Whether the tale is legendary, simple or straight-forward, it's a narrative that begs to be told. And no one is more invested in the full story than the holder of that name.
Over time, we give meaning to our name through our words and our actions. But a name can be something else. Something bigger. It can hold a deeper story with thick roots that give us a sense of place, no matter where we go.
This Kidlit Spotlight posts just in time for El día de los niños (Children's Day), commonly referred to as Día. The annual April 30th event celebrates children, families and reading, and emphasizes the importance of literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
These are precisely the themes explored in ALMA, so the link is particularly apropos: Alma's childhood curiosity sends her on a journey of ancestral connectivity that celebrates the power of storytelling.
In early childhood, our name is something we more-or-less accept. But as we age, we look at it more closely: Is it different? Too different? Pretty? Strong? Old-fashioned? Alma wrestles with something quite specific about her name: its length. She can't even squeeze it onto a piece of paper...
Alma confronts her dad about it, lamenting that "it never fits." This sentiment prompts Alma's father to tell her the story of her name, to determine if perhaps it does "fit," after all. Martinez-Neal's play on this dual meaning is exact, powerful and poignant.
Alma soon learns that each of her SIX names (Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela) holds a different story. One-by-one, her father introduces ancestors for whom she's named. Martinez-Neal's illustrations fit so beautifully with this odyssey. The ivory toned paper and muted pencil marks, reminiscent of an old journal or baby book, provide a dream-like bridge from present to past.
Through this portal, we come close to Alma's relatives and experience their individual interests and passions, which live on in young Alma: Sofia's love of books, Esperanza's sense of adventure, Jose's artistry, and so on. The revelations widen Alma's eyes to a broader picture of who she is and who she will be.
Power of Storytelling
Alma's journey is facilitated by her father through story. He pulls books from the shelf, flips the pages of journals, shares old photographs - weaving the written word with an oral history to create a rich and defining tale. Martinez-Neal amplifies this storytelling by layering in illustrative symbols that link Alma to her ancestors (rosy noses, red threads, striped pants).
I do my best to avoid spoilers, and will exercise restraint here, as well. But I'll conclude by saying that the end of Alma's journey in this book is really just the beginning...
I hope you're able to experience Alma for yourself, with someone you love. It certainly encouraged me to take a deeper look into my own name - especially my middle name (Ruth), which I share with three of my great grandmothers. (For more, here's my mom's recent guest post.)
ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME can be purchased in bookstores nationwide, as well as online through the bookseller of your choice. You also can enter to WIN an autographed copy through my Twitter page and blog!
*** Win ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME ***
1. "Like" this post (click the heart below)
2. Follow me (@anitraschulte) on Twitter
3. Retweet my pinned contest tweet by 5/4/18
(Submit a blog comment below and get a BONUS ENTRY!)
PS: For an in-depth chat about ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME, listen to Episode #433 of The Children's Book Podcast with Matthew C. Winner.
PPS: What is the story behind MY name? Well, I was named after a Price Is Right Barker Beauty named Anitra Ford. (No relation to me, that's for sure!) But a fun story, nonetheless!