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Spot the Difference: Bravo, Avocado!

Updated: May 5

In today's post we learn about the evolution of Chana Stiefel's picture book Bravo, Avocado.


You can order BRAVO, AVOCADO! here.


Chana shared the background story of Bravo, Avocado on Nov. 4, 2022 on Tara Lazar's blog (https://taralazar.com/2022/11/04/bravo-avocado/) where she said, "Back in February 2020, I was sick in bed with a bad cough. In retrospect, the timing was right for a mysterious early case of Covid, but we’ll never know. In the meantime, I received an email from my awesome agent, Miranda Paul at Erin Murphy Literary, asking if I had a manuscript about an avocado. In my feverish state, I grabbed a notebook and started brainstorming avocado puns: Holy guacamole. Guac and roll. Avocado had a pit in her stomach. That last one got me thinking: Was Avocado anxious? And if so, why?


I wrote several drafts about an avocado who wants to make friends with other fruits and veggies. But they all seem to have plans. No wonder Avocado had a pit in her stomach!


Garlic, who never minces words, suggests that Avocado is bland. Avocado sheds lots of tears (well, Onion is nearby). But then Avocado pulls herself together and decides to meet up with other bland friends."


The original version sounded like this:


Avocado Blends In

It was a bright, sunshiny day at the Farmer’s Market.

Avocado felt ripe and ready to roll.

“Hey, Tomato!” she said. “Wanna play?”

“Sorry!” said Tomato. “I’m off to salsa lessons.”

Avocado bumped into zesty Lemon. “Wanna play?”

“Sorry! I’m squeezed for time,” said Lemon.

“Bye,” Avocado sighed.

A pungent odor wafted through the air. Garlic!

Avocado liked his spunk.

“Hi there, Garlic! Wanna play?”

“Sorry, you’re too bland!” grumbled Garlic.

“Did...did you just call me bland?” asked Avocado.

“No, I said, Sorry, I’m in a band!”

Avocado felt a huge pit in her stomach. Garlic never minced words.

“Maybe I am bland!”

Plain.

Flavorless.

Boring.

Avocado’s eyes started to sting. A tear rolled down her cheek. Onion was nearby.

“You need thicker skin!” Onion declared. And off he rolled.


Chana then continues explaining, "Editor Tamar Mays at HarperCollins liked my writing, but the story? Not so much. Would kids connect to the bland/blend theme? And the marketing team was dead set against eating the protagonist at the end. (I sometimes like to go dark.)


Luckily, Tamar was willing to give me another shot!


By then spring had sprung. I brainstormed new settings and situations for my little green character. I thought about my favorite trips to the Farmers’ Market with my critique partner Donna Cangelosi And voila! BRAVO, AVOCADO was born.


This new story is about an avocado at the Farmers’ Market who wants to be Today’s Special. Strolling through the aisles, Avocado asks her veggie friends what makes her stand out. Tomato offers to teach her salsa. Pumpkin proposes funny faces. Garlic suggests she add some zing! Nothing seems to work until—Ding ding!—the bright and shiny Toaster inspires Avocado to “reflect” more deeply. Avocado discovers that she was special all along.


Many of the funny puns remain from the earlier version, but only the ones that serve the story. And the social-emotional themes of developing self-awareness, discovering what’s inside us that makes us special, and uplifting our friends struck a chord. Tamar loved it!


And illustrator Anna Sussbauer’s eye-popping colors and vibrant textures bring the story to life. Best of all, no fruits or veggies were harmed in the making of this book."


Published version:

Bravo, Avocado!

[sign: Farmer’s Market. Opening Day!]

Avocado perched on the edge of her crate.

The day was ripe with possibilities.

The sites! The smells! The signs!

Today’s Special! Zesty limes! Juicy peaches! Sweet corn!

Everyone had something special to share.

Everyone except Avocado. [Sign: Avocados $1]

“This is the pits!” Avocado groaned. “I want to be Today’s Special too!”

She thought hard.

“Hmm. What makes me stand out?” She set off to find out.

Avocado bumped into Tomato.

“Hello, Tomato!” Avocado said. “I want to be Today’s Special! Any ideas?”

“Have you tried salsa lessons?”

“Not yet!” said Avocado. “What do I have to do?”

“Easy,” said Tomato. “Follow me!

Right.

Left.

Right...”

“OOPS! Sorry!” said Avocado. [illo. They trip over each other.]

“You’ll ketch-up,” said Tomato. “Keep practicing!”



Side-by-side comparison:

Original version:

Published version:

Avocado Blends In

It was a bright, sunshiny day at the Farmer’s Market.

Avocado felt ripe and ready to roll.

“Hey, Tomato!” she said. “Wanna play?”

“Sorry!” said Tomato. “I’m off to salsa lessons.”


Avocado bumped into zesty Lemon. “Wanna play?”

“Sorry! I’m squeezed for time,” said Lemon. 

“Bye,” Avocado sighed.


A pungent odor wafted through the air. Garlic!

Avocado liked his spunk.

“Hi there, Garlic! Wanna play?”

“Sorry, you’re too bland!” grumbled Garlic.

“Did...did you just call me bland?” asked Avocado.

“No, I said, Sorry, I’m in a band!” 


Avocado felt a huge pit in her stomach. Garlic never minced words.

“Maybe I am bland!” 

Plain.

Flavorless. 

Boring.


Avocado’s eyes started to sting. A tear rolled down her cheek. Onion was nearby. 

“You need thicker skin!” Onion declared. And off he rolled.

Bravo, Avocado!

[sign: Farmer’s Market. Opening Day!]

Avocado perched on the edge of her crate.

The day was ripe with possibilities.

The sites! The smells! The signs!

Today’s Special! Zesty limes! Juicy peaches! Sweet corn!


Everyone had something special to share.

Everyone except Avocado. [Sign: Avocados $1]

“This is the pits!” Avocado groaned. “I want to be Today’s Special too!”

She thought hard. 

Hmm. What makes me stand out?” She set off to find out.


Avocado bumped into Tomato. 

“Hello, Tomato!” Avocado said. “I want to be Today’s Special! Any ideas?”

“Have you tried salsa lessons?”

“Not yet!” said Avocado. “What do I have to do?”


“Easy,” said Tomato. “Follow me! 

Right. 

Left. 

Right...” 

“OOPS! Sorry!” said Avocado. [illo. They trip over each other.]

“You’ll ketch-up,” said Tomato. “Keep practicing!”

__________________________________________________________________________________


Chana Stiefel is the award-winning author of more than 30 books for children. Her nonfiction picture book, THE TOWER OF LIFE: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs, published by Scholastic, won the 2023 Sydney Taylor Book Award, a Robert F. Sibert Honor, the Margaret Wise Brown Prize for Children’s Literature, and the SCBWI Russell Freedman Nonfiction Award for a Better World. Other nonfiction titles include LET LIBERTY RISE: How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty (a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, Scholastic), and ANIMAL ZOMBIES & OTHER REAL-LIFE MONSTERS (a Top 10 YALSA Quick Pick, NatGeoKids). Chana’s funny fictional picture books include BRAVO, AVOCADO (HarperCollins, 2023), MENDEL’S HANUKKAH MESS UP (Kalaniot, co-written with Larry Stiefel), MY NAME IS WAKAWAKALOCH (HMH, short-listed for the 2023 UNICEF Prize for Children’s Literature), and DADDY DEPOT (Feiwel & Friends). She loves to visit schools and libraries to share her passion for reading and writing with children. She earned a Master’s degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting from New York University. Chana is represented by Miranda Paul at Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Follow her @chanastiefel on FB, Twitter, and Instagram. www.chanastiefel.com

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1 Comment


KatieLeeReinert
Apr 23

Sounds like a really fun story! Thanks for sharing how it evolved!

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