Maria Isabel Salazar Lopez is excited and nervous about her first day
in a third grade classroom. Having recently moved from Puerto Rico to the U.S., she knows the first day will not be easy.
Armed with a new backpack and a dress made by her Aunt Aurea, she sets off for school.
Her new teacher immediately decides to refer to Maria as "Mary" Lopez since there are
already two Marias in the class. This sets off a series of events. Maria doesn't recognize her name when the teacher calls upon 'Mary'. This leaves her teacher with
the impression that Maria is being inattentive. When it is time to be selected
for the school play, Maria is left out because she doesn't respond to her teacher's inquiry.
She is deeply disappointed at not having a part in the play but does not
know a way explain her feelings to her teacher. Maria wants to sing in the play and she wants her teacher to understand the
importance and pride associated with her name. Each part of her name bears a
memory. She is named for her two grandmothers, her grandfather and father, and
for her mother.
Finally the opportunity for a solution to her problem arrives
in the form of an essay titled, "My Greatest Wish". Maria explains that her greatest
wish is to be called by her given name and she explains the genealogy represented by her name.
She also describes her desire to sing in the play. Her teacher responds
with kindness by giving her a solo and all ends on a happy note.
This is "an affirming study of heritage and how it is integrally
bound up in an individuals sense of self "(Welton). This Puerto Rican families'
struggle to improve their lives and the deep love and pride they feel toward each other resonate throughout the story. Spanish terms, mostly affectionate references to Mami, and Papi, are interspersed
throughout the story and the reader learns that Grandma Chabela from Puerto Rico is saving money for Maria "to study someday...and
not spend your whole life in a kitchen" (Ada). Black and white line drawings
extend the story. The love and pride reflected on the faces of Maria's family as she sings her solo is evident.
The reader will come away with a better understanding
of why names and their pronunciations have such impact on sense of self. Taking
the time to learn a person's name is a measure of respect and regard regardless of the culture. Mrs. Ada states, "The
feelings that children experience when teachers do not acknowedge their real name led me to write My Name is Maria Isabel.
All my life I have had a difficult time getting people to acknowledge that my first name is Alma Flor, so I know personally
how this feels, and I have also heard many people express similar feelings" (Alma Flor Ada) .