Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! – written by Alexandra Alessandri, illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

    Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! – written by Alexandra Alessandri, illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda, Albert Whitman & Co, 9780807504505, 2020

Format: Paperback ARC

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book? This is a great example of an #0wnvoices diverse book that celebrates Colombian culture through a story that all readers can relate to. When Ava Gabriela goes to Colombia for el Año Nuevo, readers follow Ava as she works to overcome her shyness with family she doesn’t see often. Over time she opens up, first with her cousins who are happy to play with her, quiet or not, and then with her tios, tias, and abuela. Ava helps cook buñuelos, create the Año Viejo balloon doll, and wears yellow underwear and eats 12 grapes for good luck in the new year — celebrating some traditional Colombian New Year celebrations. Many other cultural details are interwoven into the text and the illustrations, especially food, musical instruments, home decorations, and wildlife. Many Spanish words are embedded in the story and described in a way where a reader who doesn’t know Spanish can understand the context, but without directly translating each word. A glossary at the back is offered as a reference for readers who want to learn more. I especially loved how well this was done, in that it decenters whiteness but is also accessible for everyone. 

Anything you did not like about the book. Nothing

To whom would you recommend this book? This would be a great read-aloud around New Years, either on its own or as a comparison of how New Year’s Day is celebrated around the world. It would be especially loved by Spanish-English bilingual readers. Read-alike with Too Many Tamales (Soto). 

Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, public librarians

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts

Date of review: June 25, 2020

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