Alma and How She Got Her Name

The stories behind a name

Alma and How She Got Her Name
by Juana Martinez-Neal

This book was chosen for a 2018 CaldecottĀ Honor award!

Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela thinks her name is too long, until her father sits her down and tells her about all of the family members she is named after. As a child, I remember being really interested in knowing where my name came from (my mother chose the name Meika after hearing it in Germany where she was studying abroad in college) and this story shows how many families help their children maintain a connection to their ancestors through their names. 


If you are a teacher just getting to know your students (or you want to learn even more about them because it’s important to build relationships and reconnect with your students throughout the year, not just the first week) try reading this book and then asking your kids to learn about where their names come from for homework. Depending on the age of your students, you can ask them to talk to their parents or write a report about their name origins. Keep in mind, some students might be named after a relative or influential historical figure, while others just have a name that their parents liked and that’s all there is to it (that’s the not-too-interesting story of how my son got his name!). If that’s the case, they can research the name itself.

  • Where does their name come from?
  • What are its variations in other languages?
  • What are its meanings?
  • Are there any historical figures with the same name? What do they know about those people, and do they have anything in common with them?

If you are a parent, your child will almost certainly want to know where their name comes from after reading this book together, so be prepared for that conversation. And if your child’s name doesn’t have any historical/religious/family significance, try looking up celebrities and historical figures with the same name as your child and learn about their contributions to society. 

Do you know the story of how you got your name? Does your name have a special meaning to you or your family?

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