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Juana Martinez-Neal (The Children's Book Podcast #433)

April 10, 2018



Juana Martinez-Neal makes her picture book debut as both author and illustrator in ALMA AND HOW SHE GOT HER NAME, a story that carries with it a simple and sincere message: everybody has a name, and every name has a story behind it. Juana talks about not have the distance from her own story to maintain a more autobiographical focus, and yet in turning her gaze to the fictional Alma she opens up the story to be that much more universal.




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.


ALSO AVAILABLEAlma y cómo obtuvo su nombre (Spanish Edition)







Juana Martinez-Neal is the recipient of the 2018 Pura Belpré Medal for Illustration for "La Princesa and the Pea" (written by Susan M. Elya, Putnam/Penguin).


"Alma and How She Got Her Name" is her first picture book as author-illustrator. It will be published by Candlewick Press in April 2018. Martinez-Neal says that the essence of ALMA, which has autobiographical elements, is “you are everyone that came before you, and you are uniquely yourself.” Candlewick Press acquired the book in a seven publisher auction and will publish in simultaneous English-and Spanish-language editions.


Juana was named to the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Honor list in 2014, and was awarded the SCBWI Portfolio Showcase Grand Prize in 2012. She was born in Lima, the capital of Peru, and now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband, two sons, and daughter.


Purchase Juana's books for you or your readers HERE.


And visit Juana Martinez-Neal online at

*This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases made through these links will support the costs of maintaining the podcast, webcomic, and other materials associated with this site. 


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