Alma and How She Got Her Name

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Juana Martinez-Neal, Alma and How She Got Her Name, Walker Books Australia, 1 April 2018, 32pp., $24.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9780763693558

There are some wonderfully inspiring picture books around at the moment which celebrate the strength and potential of young girls. Alma and How She Got Her Name  – a fantastic addition to this this growing trend – features a head-strong young female character whose future is rich with possibilities.

Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela doesn’t like her name – it’s too long, and never seems to fit when she writes in on a page. So the little girl asks her father about her unique name, he tells her a lovely story tracing the details and rich history of Alma’s family tree.

Nestled in her father’s lap while he goes through the family photo album, Alma learns about each of her namesakes, realising along the way that she has inherited valuable traits from each person. There was the grandmother who taught her to read, and instilled in Alma a love of books, a great-grandmother who dreamed of traveling the world, instilling in Alma a thirst for travel, a grandfather whose love of drawing Alma has also inherited. There are a handful of other relatives, each with their own unique stories and influence on Alma’s life.

Finally, Alma learns how she got her first name;

“‘I picked the name Alma just for you’” her father explains, “‘You are the first and only Alma. You will make your own story.’”

By the end of the book, Alma has a new appreciation of her name and a deeper understanding of her family heritage. Inspired by the stories of her relatives, Alma is now ready to start her own story.

This lovely picture book is accompanied by beautiful pencil drawings in muted shades of black and white with soft splashes of red. Alma and her family are brought vividly to life through these gorgeous sketches, and lush background imagery adds a deeper dimension to stories that Alma’s father tells.

Reviewed by Melinda Allan

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