Elena lives near a small town in western Guatemala. She lives there with her mother, her younger brother, Luis, and her baby sister, Ana. Her father is far away, working on a plantation. Elena struggles to keep up in school. Her teacher says she needs to practice her reading, but it's hard to find time to read. She must help her mother with the cooking and housework, as well as the hard work of planting and weeding their garden. As the big sister Elena is also in charge of watching over Luis to keep him out of ...
Elena lives near a small town in western Guatemala. She lives there with her mother, her younger brother, Luis, and her baby sister, Ana. Her father is far away, working on a plantation. Elena struggles to keep up in school. Her teacher says she needs to practice her reading, but it's hard to find time to read. She must help her mother with the cooking and housework, as well as the hard work of planting and weeding their garden. As the big sister Elena is also in charge of watching over Luis to keep him out of mischief. It isn't always easy and she gets impatient with her little brother. But at the end of the day, when Elena shares a book with Luis, carefully sounding out the words, she comes to better understand and appreciate her role in the family.
Elena lives in Guatemala with her mother and younger sibling. Papa is away working on a plantation and the bulk of the work has fallen to Elena. She's struggling to succeed in school and Mama just doesn't seem to understand that she needs time to practice her reading and can't get it done while she's watching little Luis, gardening and cooking the meals. When she finds Mama asleep at the kitchen table one night she pulls Luis onto her lap and shows him the pictures in the book she is reading, telling him the story and trying out some of the words as she goes. Mama sees them working together and praises her efforts, promising to help her more. There are Spanish words interspersed throughout the text with a glossary in the back along with an author's note describing the culture and imagining what happens in Elena's story after it ends. The colors and illustrations are rich and deep, echoing the patterns and hues of the traditional woven cloth. The ending is a bit abrupt, however, and throughout the story there's a constant feel of wanting just a little more information. Reviewer: Amy McMillan
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2—Shaw takes readers through the daily activities of a young Guatemalan girl. Elena rises early and dresses in colorful traditional clothing: "The huipil [blouse] is as red as a bursting tomato. The corte [skirt] is blue-black like the beginning of night." Elena has not been able to finish her homework because candles are too expensive; she must watch her younger brother, who finds ways of getting into trouble at every turn; and she is conflicted about handling her numerous chores while trying to keep up in school. Eventually her mother realizes that success in school is worth the price of candles. The author describes the child's worries with empathy and concern that should connect with readers even if theirs are different. While the watercolor illustrations tend to be a bit murky, they are well researched and authentically depict the landscape, clothing, and architecture. There is little on the culture of Guatemala available for young children, and this is a serviceable addition.—Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Elena narrates this touching story set in Guatemala, about a girl's longing for education. She lives with her mother and younger siblings in a rural village while the father of the family works far away. Elena attends school and is trying to learn to read in Spanish, but she finds it hard to find time to practice reading when she needs to help her mother with cooking, child care and gardening. Candles are scarce as well, so Elena is frustrated with her lack of time to study her books. She solves her problem by reading out loud to her mischievous younger brother, keeping him occupied and practicing her reading at the same time. Her mother realizes that Elena's reading could help the whole family, so she approves Elena's use of candles for her reading at night. A large trim size shows off the vibrant illustrations with engaging characters and authentic details in clothing and backgrounds, researched by the author in her travels to Guatemala. There are several foreign terms used in the story, and although they are defined in the glossary, it is unclear to the reader whether these terms are Spanish or Mam, Elena's native Mayan language. Useful for students learning about life in other countries, and an entertaining story in its own right. (author's note, glossary) (Picture book. 5-9)