A delightfully fresh take on the "anything you can do, I can do better" theme, Elena's Serenade
follows a feisty little Mexican girl on a quest to prove to her father--and herself--that she can be a glassblower, even if she is a girl. Magic realism abounds as Elena journeys (dressed as a boy) to Monterrey to learn from the great glassblowers. Along the way she meets a burro, a roadrunner, and a coyote, helping each of them accomplish their goals as she blows tunes through her father's cast-off glassblowing pipe. Arriving in Monterrey, our little "muchacho" is mocked at first, but soon silences her detractors (who continue to think she's a boy) when she creates beautiful glass stars through her pipe. If only her Papa could see what she can do! Perhaps if she blows a giant bird (golondrina
), she can fly home.
A lovely story penned by Campbell Geeslin, with lyrical acrylic and crayon art by the illustrator of Jonah Winter's Frida, Ana Juan. Readers will revel in the whole experience--words, pictures, message, and all. (Ages 4 to 8) --Emilie Coulter
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 4--In this story set in Mexico, a young girl longingly watches her papa blow into a pipe to create bottles, and dreams about doing the same. Papa disapproves, with comments about her size and gender. Hurt and angry, Elena takes her brother's advice and, disguised as a boy, begins a journey to Monterrey, home of the great glassblowers. Stopping to rest along the way, she pulls out her pipe to blow and is surprised when a melodious sound emerges. Her beautiful notes give lost and lonely Burro comfort, help hopeless Roadrunner to move faster, and allow shrill-sounding Coyote to make sweet melodies. With newly acquired confidence in her abilities, the girl finally reaches Monterrey. Although the men laugh at her, she closes her eyes and plays "Estrellita
" while blowing a star out of glass. Desperate to share her talent with her father, Elena blows out a giant bird and flies home, and Papa soon realizes how special she is. The story flows well and Spanish words are smoothly incorporated into the text. The alluring acrylic-and-crayon illustrations have a stylized folk-art quality that helps to set the stage for the tale. Juan uses striking color combinations and shifting perspective to keep attention focused on the child and her changing emotions. The final images of Elena, complete with smiling face and flowing hair, reveal her blossoming identity along with her talents. A fascinating adventure that explores issues of gender roles, self-confidence, and the workings of an artist's heart.--Tracy Bell, Durham Public Schools, NC
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