Elena's Serenade

Elena's Serenade

4.5 2
by Campbell Geeslin
     
 

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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

Overview

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)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780689849084
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
02/24/2004
Pages:
40
Sales rank:
611,074
Product dimensions:
11.20(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
AD780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
3 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Ana Juan is the illustrator of Elena’s Serenade, which School Library Journal called “a fascinating adventure that explores issues of gender roles, self-confidence, and the workings of an artist’s heart” in a starred review. Her paintings have appeared on the cover of The New Yorker, on book and album jackets, on film festival posters, and in several European magazines. She is also the illustrator of Frida by Jonah Winter and the author and illustrator of The Night Eater. She lives in Madrid, Spain.

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Elena's Serenade 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My six year old daughter repeatedly, I mean repeatedly, borrows this book from the media center at school. We are to the point that we almost know it by heart. Our older children are amazed that she can be so fanscinated by this one book. My husband brought it to her class to read to the children. This time, in order to surprise her, he came with props. He blew silver stars into the air, as if he were blowing the glass stars himself and threw butterflies towards the end of the book. The class (even the boys) enjoyed hearing the tale of the young mexican girl. We enjoy the book mostly because you can see the happiness on her face, as if she's never heard it before. I will buy her her own copy today and someday she will read it to her children and get the same satisfaction of seeing her childrens faces light up each and every time she reads it to them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My daughter (5) rented this book from the library a while back and after returning it we discovered that we really missed reading it! We're going to go buy it today so we can read it before bed tonight :)