Monday, September 30, 2019

September #cbadspotlight - Spotlight on Alma and How She Got Her Name with Author/Illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal

Today I'm shining the spotlight on Juana Martinez-Neal,
author/illustrator of #cbadspotlight pick & Caldecott Honor book 
Alma and How She Got Her Name 
and also illustrator of La Princesa and the Pea, La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Lost Niños,
Babymoon & Frybread: A Native American Family Story

What's in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.
If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

Thank you, Juana, for joining me for a #cbadspotlight guest post today!

Hi, there! I’m Juana Martinez-Neal, author and illustrator of Alma and How She Got Her Name and Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre, published by Candlewick Press. 

It is hard to believe that it has been almost eighteen months since ALMA was released. As this book was the first one that I both wrote and illustrated, I didn’t know what to expect. I am happy to report that the experience has been unbelievable and that ALMA has changed my life. 

Seeing how ALMA has been welcomed into schools, libraries and homes has been heartwarming to say the least. Thinking of all the name stories shared by children and their families during these past months has been moving. With that in mind, I would love to dedicate this post to everyone and anyone who has taken the time to include ALMA in their lives. A special thank you to all the teachers and librarians who have shared ALMA with their students. 

Sometimes I get to see posts and peek at how ALMA is shared in the classroom. I love this so much that I will share some of those posts here. Earlier this month, Mrs. Ramirez a teacher at Lancaster Elementary in El Paso, TX, posted a picture of how her classroom read the book and then discussed it. You can see how the students shared their family trees and name stories. Reading the “wonders” her students had was truly touching: 

“I wonder if Alma goes to school.”
“I wonder if Alma had friends.”
It is a yes to both those wonders.

In a classroom in Chicago, IL (@DrydenLMC) first graders made their names with lego blocks.

In Henrico, VA, Mrs. Lingerfeld’s second graders created their names with maker materials. Then, went home, interviewed their families to find out about their origin name stories, and recorded their responses in Flipgrid.

Anna Lingerfelt (@anna_lingerfelt @hcpslib) shared how 1st graders built names for their lego wall after reading ALMA.

Younger grades at a school in Liberty, TX worked on creating their names with playdough.

Ms. Sebastián in Austin, TX had her students work on nameplates. The second graders went home and found out the stories behind their own names. The following day, they got a chance to share their name stories with their friends. 

I was stunned to see the activity Mrs. Miller and Ms. Amabile developed for her fourth graders in Edison, NJ. One of my very favorite posts!

Mrs. Sterns (@mrs_sterns) in Nebraska had a similar and empowering activity for her young ELL students. 

Some teachers have used ALMA to talk about identity. I love hearing that as Alma’s search for her own identity is a key part of the book. Ms. Rodrigo is a dual language teacher in Barrington, IL. She and her fifth graders worked on identity webs.

Here is how Ms. Carr and her first graders in Los Angeles, CA discussed identity after reading the book.

Mrs. Robles from El Paso, TX went deeper and shared details about Peru with her students. For those of you who don’t know, I was born and raised in Peru. And, I was so taken to see what Mrs. Robles had done that we got in touch. We had a super fun Skype visit with her third grade Dalmatians.

I would not be here writing this post if it wasn’t for Jillian Heise's support and her brilliant #ClassroomBookADay and #cbadspotlight. She has been a huge supporter of ALMA since the very beginning.

I hope this post sparks some ideas on how YOU can include ALMA in your classrooms. If you post what you do, feel free to tag me at @juanamartinez (twitter) or @juanamartinezn (instagram). I’d love to see what you are doing, too! You can always visit this page (bottom of the page) for other resources, activities, discussion guides and more on ALMA.

Alma and I wish you a very successful school year. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts!  

Keep reading, keep going, keep sharing your stories!

Be sure to check out all of the #cbadspotlight choices for this school year!
Visit for more information on #classroombookaday,
a goal to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year, at any grade,
inspired by Donalyn Miller's #bookaday.

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