I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! + 4 Qs with debut #kidlit author Alexandra Alessandri + a New Year’s #Giveaway

December 29, 2020

I’m so excited to share Alexandra Alessandri’s debut picture book,

Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

(Illus. Addy Rivera Sonda / Albert Whitman)

–the PERFECT must-read for our last blog of the year. 

Check out the reviews!

“This gentle family story lets readers know that shyness is nothing to worry about.”―Kirkus STARRED review

“The book’s vibrant colors reflect the story’s celebratory mood.”―Booklist

“A story about overcoming shyness in a unique storybook setting, recommended.”

School Library Journal

Fun Fact:  Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! and my new release DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5 share a new year’s theme. 

AND I love that DEAR EARTH’s illustrator, Luisa Uribe, and Alexandra are both from Colombia. Luisa lives in Bogotá, Colombia, where students like the Earth Heroes in Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5 are helping protect the environment and our natural resources.

Alexandra Alessandri lives in South Florida, but most of her family comes from cities near Medellín and Cali (in Colombia). And get this– Felíz New Year illustrator Addy Rivera Sonda, originally from Mexico, lives in California–which is where I (Erin Dealey) live too. Wait–have we gone full circle here?

Alexandra Alessandri is a poet and Associate Professor of English at Broward College, but today she is wearing her #kidlit author hat.

And there’s a giveaway, friends. 

Time for some questions with Alexandra first: 

Q 1. Congratulations on your debut picture book, Alexandra! I learned so much about Colombian New Year’s celebrations—from wearing yellow underwear to making your own Año Viejo. Do you have a favorite tradition?

Alexandra and her 2018 Año Viejo puppet.

Alexandra Alessandri: Thank you so much, Erin! The Año Viejo tradition is certainly one of my favorites. However, one I loved just as much that didn’t make its way into the book was that of walking around the neighborhood at the stroke of midnight, luggage in hand, in hopes for a well-traveled year. We didn’t travel much when I was a kid, and I always wished to do so!

ED: OMG. This year is the PERFECT year to try that. No one has gone anywhere since March, so why not around the block?

I’m ready!

Q 2. Since Felíz New Year Ava Gabriela! is about shy Ava finding her voice, I’m wondering when (and how) you found your voice—as a shy young child, and as an author?

Alexandra Alessandri: Oh, this is such a great question. Making friends and becoming comfortable with my surroundings were both key factors in helping me shed some of my shyness as a child, and in doing so, they helped me find my voice. I’ve since learned to give myself space in new situations or in new places to warm up. As an author, I think in many ways, I’m still finding my voice. My dad’s passing 13 years ago was perhaps the spark that started shaping it, but it’s taken many poems, many words, and many manuscripts to get to a place where I recognize my voice on the page.

Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Interior art–Addy Rivera Sonda / Albert Whitman

Writing tips:

Q 3. Could you share any tips for those wanting to be debut authors like yourself? What New Year’s resolutions might a pre-published author make?

Alexandra Alessandri: I have four main tips for pre-published authors:

1) Write a lot and read a lot.

2) Learn your craft.

3) Be persistent.

4) Stay focused on your own journey.

It’s really easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing—their successes, their book deals, etc.—but it’s not productive for our own growth as writers. Instead, we should be persistent and do the work, including writing, reading, and learning. It’s also important to find our community, including great critique partners. All of these, I think, would make great New Year’s resolutions, or goals!

Speaking of resolutions…

Interior–DEAR EARTH…From Your Friends in Room 5  (Harper Collins) — by Erin Dealey / art by Luisa Uribe

Q 4. If Ava Gabriela could write a letter to DEAR EARTH, like Room 5 (above), what would she say?

Alexandra Alessandri: I love this question! If Ava Gabriela could write a letter to DEAR EARTH about things she’s doing to help our environment, she would share how she and her cousins helped clean up and recycle after their family’s New Year’s Eve party, making sure there was no litter left behind that might harm the Earth or its animals. She might also tell Earth that back home, she tries to avoid straws or plastic, which hurts the sea turtles and other sea critters she loves.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Erin! Here’s to an awesome 2021!

YES to all of the above.

Felíz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Interior art–Addy Rivera Sonda / Albert Whitman

And friends, if you’ve purchased FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA! (thank you!!) for yourself, your class, or as a gift, Alexandra is happy to send you a signed bookplate, bookmark, & stickers (while supplies last). Fill out this form bit.ly/33WYw1c & she will pop them in the mail!

To learn more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books, check out her web site: alexandraalessandri.com  and follow her on

Twitter: @apalessandri

Insta: apalessandri

Did I mention there’s a #giveaway? 

Yes! And…
You can see her  TODAY, Dec. 29th or on Dec. 31st at Miami-Dade Public Library’s virtual story time! 

Join author Alexandra Alessandri and her puppet friend “Año Viejo” as they say goodbye to 2020 with a virtual storytime and Q&A session. Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!, a warm-hearted story about a shy little girl who meets her large, extended family as they celebrate New Year’s Eve infused with Colombian traditions. Ages 4 – 8 yrs. Space is limited. Online event hosted through Zoom. Registration required. Registrants will receive the Zoom link via email 24 hours prior to start time.

Click on the dates above for more info. 

OK–About that #Giveaway:

In the spirit of the holidays, Alexandra has generously offered to giveaway EITHER a copy of FELIZ NEW YEAR, AVA GABRIELA! or a picture book critique! (Winner’s choice.) 

To enter:

  1. Reply in the comments below and tell us your favorite New Year’s tradition.
  2. For extra tickets in the giveaway hat, share this post on social media (tag us!) and/or subscribe to this blog (info at the top of this post).
As for next year, I have 20 –TWENTY– #kidlit blog interviews scheduled in 2021, with more to come! You can subscribe here so you won’t miss any posts. Meanwhile,  please have a Happy SAFE New Year celebration
and I’ll see you in 2021.

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