Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Albert Whitman. Oct. 2020. 32p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780807504505.
K-Gr 3–When soft-spoken Ava Gabriela goes to visit her extended family in the countryside of Colombia, she wants to join in on the traditional New Year’s festivities, but is held back by shyness. She longs to play with her cousins, but her words feel stuck. Still, she finds small ways to express herself, especially one-on-one with certain relatives who are more understanding than others. This warm #OwnVoices look at Colombian traditions, including wearing yellow underwear and eating grapes for good luck, is both universal and deeply personal. An author’s note explains that these are just some of the country’s many traditions, and that each family may celebrate differently; here they create and destroy an effigy of the “Año Viejo” (old year). A glossary defines the Spanish words in the text, although the use of both Spanish and English in the story always provides clear context for monolingual readers. Sonda’s charming illustrations portray an idyllic finca, complete with a small clay-tiled house surrounded by cacti. Ava looks 5 or 6 years old, and has dark brown hair and light skin. The language is just as atmospheric. With ample similes and metaphors, Alessandri creates a character who is not defined by her shyness. She feels like a “little mouse,” but Ava understands this is not how she wants to be. She is able to enjoy the celebration once her “voice [grows] wings.”
VERDICT A story about overcoming shyness in a unique storybook setting, recommended for purchase.

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