Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Story Behind the Story of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! by Alexandra Alessandri

The Story Behind the Story: Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! by Alexandra Alessandri

Sometimes, stories are hard, coming out in spurts and piecing together like an elaborate puzzle, requiring heaps of patience and determination. Sometimes, stories are easy. They pour out of you fully formed. Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!, illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda and releasing from Albert Whitman on October 1st, was one of the easy ones. When I sat down to write the first draft, I wrote it from beginning to end in one sitting. It was the first time that had happened to me and I didn’t know what to do with myself!

I realize now that the seeds for the story had been planted long before I sat down to write. They had been watered and nourished for several months. During January 2018, I participated in Tara Lazar’s Storystorm, and with Debbi Michiko Florence’s post, I remembered all those bits of my New Year’s Eve holidays with my family that I loved: the music and dancing, the food and sweets, the Año Viejo, our fun superstitions, like eating twelve grapes for good luck, having luggage ready for a well-traveled year ahead, cleaning the house to have a good start to the year. I just didn’t know what to do with these memories—yet. 

Then, that New Year’s Eve, we were standing outside with friends and their shy little girl. She barely said a word and hid behind her parents. She reminded me so much of myself when I was little. When the fireworks started at midnight, though, she squealed and jumped and wouldn’t stop talking. I remember telling her, “You found your voice!” Just like that, the story for Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! burst into existence fully formed. 

In many ways, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! is an ode to everything I loved about celebrating New Year’s Eve with my family. But, it’s also a validation for shy kids everywhere. Ava’s mamá tells her, There’s nothing wrong with being shy. When you’re ready, your voice will come out and play.” That’s the message I hope will resonate with readers. 

Alexandra Alessandri is a Colombian American poet, children’s author, and Associate Professor of English at Broward College. Her poetry has appeared in The Acentos Review, Rio Grande Review, Atlanta Review, and YARN. Her debut Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! releases October 1, 2020 from Albert Whitman & Company, followed by Isabel and Her Colores Go to School in fall 2021 from Sleeping Bear Press. Alexandra lives in Florida with her husband and son. 

Social Media Links:

Buy Links:

BONUS: Signed and personalized copies are available through Books & Books here: Leave a note with the personalization in the order comments field when checking out.


  1. OMG.I love this story behind the story and you ladies are so wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks for celebrating with us, dear Kaitlyn! This is such fun, isn't it? Always happy to have you stop by My Word Playground!! (((HUGS)))

  3. I love how the seeds of this story had been planted long ago and how Alexandra watered them as they began to bloom. There's so much to love about this book. Thanks for sharing in your blog Lynne Marie. Looking forward to getting this one. Congrats Alexandra.

    1. Thanks as always for stopping by My Word Playground, Marci, and your support of this blog! Congratulations on winning the Rate Your Story contest! Wooo Hooo!