by Chana Stiefel

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.

“Wanna play?” she asks.

“Sounds nice!” says Rice.

“Yes, please!” say Black-eyed Peas.

“Let’s go!” says Potato.

When the veggies who rejected her want to join the fun, Avocado says, “We might seem bland, but…WE CAN BLEND!”

To top off this work of genius, I included a recipe for guacamole in the backmatter.



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.

Presenting the cover of BRAVO, AVOCADO, illustrated by Anna Sussbauer! Coming March 28, 2023 from HarperCollins!

Hungry for a copy? You can win one upon release. Just leave a comment below (avocado recipes welcomed).

A random winner (US only) will be selected when the book becomes available.

Good luck! 

Chana Stiefel is the award-winning author of more than 30 punny and poignant books for children. Her nonfiction books include THE TOWER OF LIFE, the true story of Holocaust survivor and historian Yaffa Eliach (a Junior Libary Guild Gold Medal Selection, Scholastic); LET LIBERTY RISE: How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty (a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, Scholastic, 2021), and ANIMAL ZOMBIES & OTHER REAL-LIFE MONSTERS (a Top 10 YALSA Quick Pick, NatGeoKids). Chana’s funny fictional picture books include MENDEL’S HANUKKAH MESS UP (Kalaniot), MY NAME IS WAKAWAKALOCH (HMH), and DADDY DEPOT (Feiwel & Friends). Follow her @chanastiefel on FB, Twitter, and Instagram. To hear Chana pronounce her name, click here.