Elena's Serenade

Elena's Serenade

4.5 2
by Campbell Geeslin, Ana Juan

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Who ever heard of a girl glassblower?
In Mexico, where the sun is called el sol and the moon is called la luna, a little girl called Elena wants to blow into a long pipe...and make bottles appear, like magic.
But girls can't be glassblowers. Or can they?
Join Elena on her fantastic journey to Monterrey — home of the great

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Who ever heard of a girl glassblower?
In Mexico, where the sun is called el sol and the moon is called la luna, a little girl called Elena wants to blow into a long pipe...and make bottles appear, like magic.
But girls can't be glassblowers. Or can they?
Join Elena on her fantastic journey to Monterrey — home of the great glassblowers! — in an enchanting story filled with magic realism.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Geeslin's (On Ram n's Farm) enchanting story set in Mexico, Elena-whom Juan (Frida) depicts as a wide-eyed, Botero-like pumpkin of a girl-dreams of being a glassblower like her father. Author and artist set the stage with the first spread: "In Mexico the sun is called el sol,/ and the moon is called la luna./ I am called Elena." The opening line suggests that Elena could be a child of the sun and the moon, while opposite, a full-page portrait (which doubles as the cover image) depicts her swinging from the stars. When her father tells her, "Who ever heard of a girl glassblower?" Elena takes one of her father's old glassblowing pipes and runs away to Monterrey, home of Mexico's "great glassblowers." On the way she discovers a special gift: when she blows into the pipe, out waft sweet songs that help a limping roadrunner find its stride and transform a coyote's cacophonous song into a sweet serenade. When Elena finally reaches her destination and twirls the pipe into hot glass, sparkling stars, birds and butterflies burst out. Spunky Elena will inspire young readers as she sets out to follow her passion; her homesickness at journey's end ("Oh, I wish Papa could see what I can do!") keeps the perspective childlike. Juan's lush illustrations in desert tones, textured with scratches and splatters of ink, make the story's fantastical elements soar, especially when Elena flies home on a glass swallow she has made. Sprinkling Spanish words and cadences throughout the text, Geesin fashions a magical-realist fable with a girl-power message. Ages 3-7. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
There are many stories of girls disguising themselves as males in order to accomplish something or even strive towards a goal denied females, but this one is quite fanciful, setting it apart from most others. Elena wants to be a glassblower like Papa but everyone knows girls can't be glassblowers. Nonetheless, Elena holds onto Papa's old pipe and, because the best glassblowers work in Monterrey, she sets off on a journey. The story of the journey reads like a folktale as Elena, dressed like a young boy, converses with Burro, Roadrunner and Coyote. She learns that she can play tunes with the pipe and after the glassblowers allow her to try, she begins glassblowing. The molten glass at the end of the pipe is shaped by the tune she plays. After completing a large bird she allows it to carry her back home. She then disguises herself as an elderly man and shows her creations to Papa before letting him know her identity. The crayon and acrylic illustrations colorfully complement the text. 2004, Anne Schwartz/Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster, Ages 3 to 7.
—Carolyn Mott Ford
School Library Journal
K-Gr 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 Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Here, Juan surpasses even her magical, atmospheric art for Jonah Winter's Frida (2002). Indignant at her father's announcement that girls can't be glassblowers, Elena disguises herself as a boy and sets off to prove her worth in Monterrey, Mexico's glass capital. Elena relates her tale with spirit (and a sprinkling of Spanish): after traveling across the desert beneath el sol and la luna grande, learning to play folk music on an old blower's pipe, teaching a coyote to sing "Cielito Lindo," and other marvels, she silences skeptics in a Monterrey glass-blowing factory by blowing stars, then creates a crystal swallow to carry her back to papa. A stubby figure beneath a huge floppy hat and a flyaway brown mane, the young narrator gazes up at viewers with radiant self-confidence, as around and behind her gather scenes and symbols from Mexican and folk art. A vibrant cultural evocation, as well as a gender-role challenger along the lines of Mayra L. Dole's Drum, Chavi, Drum! (2003). (Picture book. 7-9)

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Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
11.20(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.40(d)
AD780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
3 - 7 Years

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