I’m proud to introduce my debut picture book Avocado Asks: What Am I (Orchard Books 2020), which I authored and illustrated! We are midst of unprecedented circumstance, but thanks to the support and hard work from Hachette Children’s Group, the book is officially out today! Hurrah!! I’m going to write a separate post about more technical sides of making this book soon, so here I’m going to share ideas behind this story and the story itself in this post.
The story set in a supermarket where Avocado is feeling just fine in the fruit and veg aisle at the supermarket – until a young customer asks a difficult question: “Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable?” Avocado realises it doesn’t know the answer either!
So Avocado sets off to a journey to find the answer. Avocado asks the vegetables: “Am I a vegetable?” They say “No, you’re not.” Avocado asks the fruits: “Am I a fruit?” The answer is no.
Avocado marches on to find the answer. Avocado goes to the fish counter (“Am I a fish?”) and cheese counter (“Am I a cheese?”) and even visit eggs, but everyone says “No!” Now Avocado feels lost and lonely.
At the moment of despair, Avocado meets Tomato who gives Avocado an unexpected answer. Will Avocado find out what it is? Well, you will find it out if you read the book 😉
The initial idea came to me when I was doing grocery shopping. A question popped into my mind – Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable? Then I wondered what if an avocado itself doesn’t know the answer? I thought it would be funny if the avocado was having identity crisis.
This story grew from the simple character idea. I could instantly feel a connection to the character in identity crisis. I was born and bred in Japan but I’ve lived in the UK all of my adult life. Now I don’t feel quite like Japanese nor quite like British. I used to hate this feeling of not knowing where I belong.
Also, this character reminded me of the National Geographic’s gender revolution special issue in 2016, featuring transgender children. Susan Goldberg wirtes: “all of us carry labels applied by others. […] The most enduring label, and arguably the most influential, is the first one most of us got: “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” Though Sigmund Freud used the word “anatomy” in his famous axiom, in essence he meant that gender is destiny. Today that and other beliefs about gender are shifting rapidly and radically.”
The more global and modern our societies have become, the more fluid and diverse our identities have become, which is in my opinion something to celebrate. However, the abundance of variation and choice could be a blessing and curse. Complexity comes with complication and confusion. But I believe the main issue lies in our tendency to put labels on others and ourselves. So I wanted to write a story for all the kids in the modern world where identities are not as simple as they used to be. It doesn’t really matter whether we’re Japanese or Jamaican, boy or girl, gay or straight as long as we’re happy with ourselves.
The book is now available in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. It will be available in the US, China, South Korea and Japan in spring next year. If you get to read this book, please let me know what you think!