Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 22, 2021


Alexandra Alessandri has written a new picture book, ISABEL AND HER COLORES GO TO SCHOOL illustrated by Courtney Dawson and published by Sleeping Bear Press. It is available in bookstores now. SBP has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner living in the United States..

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Alexandra and Courtney.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


English, with its blustery blues and whites, just feels wrong to Isabel. She prefers the warm oranges and pinks of Spanish. As she prepares for class at a new school, she knows she’s going to have to learn–and she would rather not! Her first day is uncomfortable, until she discovers there’s more than one way to communicate with friends. This is a universal story about feeling new and making new friends.


Once upon a time, five-year-old me was starting kindergarten without knowing a word of English. My Colombian immigrant parents only spoke Spanish at home, so when I walked through the halls of PS 184 in Whitestone, New York, I felt figuratively lost. Most of the memories of that year have been swept away by time, but one in particular stands out. In it, I sit hugging my knees in the hallway, weeping because I had gotten separated from my classmates. I had misunderstood my teacher, and as a result, I became literally lost—until a kind teacher found and reunited me with my class.

This memory became the inspiration for Isabel and Her Colores Go to School, but while the seeds might’ve been planted all those years ago, it wasn’t until 2015 and Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month, now Storystorm) that the idea of transforming this memory into a picture book began to take root. The blog posts helped me sift through memories, ideas, and themes. As I did, I kept coming back to this early memory of feeling lost because I couldn’t understand the language. How many other kids shared similar experiences? How could I make this memory of a young Colombian girl into a universal tale for all readers?

I brainstormed in my PiBoIdMo notebook, jotting down notes about theme, as well as ideas for characters and plot. I knew I wanted this story to be about the language barrier, about making friends despite it, and about trying hard, even when scared. I knew the emotional core would focus on her anxiety, but then ultimately, her triumph, and that the main character would be named Isabel, after my great-aunt. I also knew that the story would open as she got ready for her first day of school. I had a vivid image of Isabel sitting cross-legged on her bed, opening and closing her bookbag and coloring with her crayons. In fact, many of those early lines remain in the final version.

That was the easy part. Some stories pour out quickly, fully formed; others take more coaxing to get just right. Isabel and Her Colores was one of the latter. I wrote and rewrote it many times over the course of a couple of years. I had at least eight different drafts before I even showed it to my agent. But there was still something missing. On a whim, I decided to play around with the colors and their connection to emotion. After all, Isabel was artistic, and drawing had a role in the climax of the story. So why not? I ran with it, revising with an eye toward colors and lyricism.

When we received the offer from my editor in 2018, I was ecstatic! And when she suggested publishing the story as a bilingual, English and Spanish edition, I cried. My editor sent me revision notes, and I revised (again!). Meanwhile, Courtney Dawson worked her magic on the illustrations and captured Isabel’s emotions and relationship with color so beautifully. I’m in awe of her talent.

Many things changed from that first initial brainstorming and early drafts. The title and structure changed, and a side character and short-lived refrain were deleted. But the heart, main characters, and story beats remained. And because of my editor’s vision, kids will be able to read Isabel’s story, wholly separate from mine but rooted in that experience, in both English and Spanish.


Alexandra Alessandri is the award-winning author of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! (Albert Whitman), which won the silver medal in the 2020 Florida Book Awards Young Children’s Category, and Isabel and Her Colores Go to School (Sleeping Bear Press). The daughter of Colombian immigrants, she is also a former associate professor of English and a poet, with some of her work appearing in The Acentos ReviewRio Grande ReviewAtlanta Review, and Young Adult Review Network. She received her BA and MA degrees in English from Florida International University and a Certificate in Fiction Writing from UCLA Extension.

When not writing or teaching, Alexandra spends her time daydreaming of Colombia, relearning the piano, and planning the next great adventure with her family. She lives in Florida with her husband, son, and hairless pup. For more about Alexandra, visit



Courtney is a freelance illustrator with a great love for drawing, reading and most kinds of ice cream. She has a background in animation and a deep love for picture books.

Courtney works both digitally and traditionally, gouache being her favorite medium. She is inspired by the world around her and all of the good in it!  Courtney loves to work on projects that are empowering, inclusive and whimsical. And she loves rainy days and painting to Sam Cooke.

Recent clients include Harper Collins, Penguin Random House, Thomas Nelson, Sleeping Bear Press and Albert Whitman.

Alexandra, thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. Many kids dread the first day of school, but poor Isabel is also anxious about her not speaking English and the other children not speaking Spanish. I love how she discovers how to communicate in other ways with her new friends by embracing all the colors of her story. Courtney’s illustrations are a vibrant as the story you wrote. You two are perfect together. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This is a beautiful story. I can see my nephew and niece’s experience (Italian kids moving to Germany with no knowledge of German language) and I wish I could have given them this book a few years ago. Thank you for writing this story, I’m sure it will help many children out there feeling like they don’t belong.


  2. this book has a lovely concept and is gorgeous


  3. Congratulations, Alexandra and Courtney! I’m thrilled for you, Alexandra, to see your second picture book come out!


  4. Reblogged this on Terry Pierce.


  5. This is such a great book for kids…on so many levels. I already have a copy, so I don’t need to be entered in the giveaway. But I love how the text and the art work so smoothly together to help us feel Isabel’s emotions. And the bilingual layer of the book is fabulous!


  6. I’ve seen this lovely book around the internet a few times recently. So timely with kids on their way back into schools. I’m sure there are many nervous kids as well as parents. Here’s hoping they all have an experience as positive as Isabel’s.
    I’ve shared:, and tweeted:
    I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Have a great day!!


  7. So glad I subscribed to your blog! What a great way to start the day with beautiful words and illustrations from Alexandra and Courtney!


  8. Bravo, Alexandra and Courtney! What an important tale to share! As a former ESL teacher, I have witnessed how art and colors bridge language divides. I cannot wait to read this book and only wish it had been there for me to share with my newly arrived students years ago.


  9. A beautiful book! Putting it on my TBR list.


  10. Congrats, Alexandra and Courtney! The world needs more bilingual books like this.


  11. Thank you Alexandra and Courtney for a beautiful book that honors a child’s natural beginning-of-the-school-year jitters and offers an empowering outcome when bravely facing one’s fears. I have many bilingual learners in my classroom who are going to LOVE this book. Thanks again.


  12. What a beautiful and touching story, Alexandra. Congratulations!


  13. A beautiful blend of text and art! Can’t wait to see it in person.


  14. I’m looking forward to adding this book to my children’s library!
    I tweeted and shared on facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This book is gorgeous and its universal theme told in both English and Spanish will make it even more accessible and relatable to readers. I’m an email subscriber and shared:

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a colorful and wonderful book! Congratulations Alexandra! Draw On, Isabel! (Newsletter Subscriber).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This book is going to speak to so many children – I am looking forward to reading and sharing it. (newsletter subscriber)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. It must take so much courage and energy to try to communicate in another language. I’m sure this story will resonate with a lot of children…and adults. (Kathy, I subscribe to your blog.)

    Liked by 1 person

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