Alma and How She Got Her Name - Book Review by Shereen Rahming

What's in a name?  Is it just a random word bestowed upon us at birth or does it carry a deeper meaning that is the doorway to our identities and history?  

Alda Shereen!! That is my name.  I never liked Alda and was always grateful that my family chose to call me by my middle name instead.  I thought Alda was old-fashioned and didn't sound pretty like some of the newer and trendier names that my friends had.  So, when I read the synopsis of Juana Martinez-Neal's book, Alma and How She Got Her Name, I knew right away that this was a story that I wanted to read and review.  

The main character, Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela struggles to embrace her long name.  She desires to have a name that "fits".  Much like my young girl self, she would certainly change it if she could.  

In the story, Alma complains to her dad about her way too long name.  He sits her down and tells her the story of how she got all those names. Each name derives from a family member.  As Alma learns about each person, she discovers that she shares special qualities with each of them.  Therefore, she carries a part of each person with her.  She is the legacy of those departed family members.  Through her, they live on and through them she discovers her unique and beautiful identity.  

This story is the journey into the identity of one little girl but it is also the journey into the hearts of all its readers, both young and old, who ever struggled with some part of their heritage, culture, or identity.  It is a lesson and reminder that in our history and ancestry, we carry the struggles, triumphs, talents, hopes, and dreams of our ancestors and together, they blend into a mosaic of views, traditions, and abilities that help us form our own identities and viewpoints.

In the back of the book, the author shares a bit of her own story and how she also struggled to embrace her own name.  She later learned to love it because it not only made her feel unique but it also reminded her of the place she came from, Lima, Peru.  Then she asks her readers to tell the story of their own names.  I just love this question.  What better way to start the conversation with our little ones about embracing and loving their unique selves, than by discussing the words that are the doorways to their identities...their names.  

This book is a powerful statement on embracing our cultures, histories, and identities all wrapped up in a charming and sweet story.  I highly recommend it for any home or school library.  Wishing you all many happy reading moments with this one.

Lovingly and Proudly,

Alda Shereen :-) 

Thank you to Candlewick Press, Here Wee Read, and the author for sending me a free copy of this book for my unbiased opinion.