Little Elena’s papa is a glassblower. Elena wants to be just like him. But Elena is too little and moreover, a girl. “Who ever heard of a girl glassblower? ” Papa says. Little Elena gets mad. She decides she will prove her father wrong. And so begins the story of Elena’s Serenade by Campbell Geeslin. Elena dresses up as a boy and heads off to Monterrey where all the great glassblowers are to learn the craft of her father. Along the way, she meets some interesting characters — burro, coyote, and roadrunner — who encourage her in her quest. Above her are the movements of the heavens embodied in the beautifully illustrated figures of the sun, El Sol, and the moon, La Luna.
Elena’s Serenade is the story of a girl’s quest for a vocation. A not atypical motif, the book however, stands out for its wonderful and evocative illustration, reminiscent of the work of Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Illustrator Ana Juan depicts the Mexican landscape with startlingly vivid and colorful imagery. The repeated reading of this story to my daughter — she liked this book and wanted it reread to her often — served to enhance my appreciation of this illustrator’s art. Elena’s Serenade was published in 2004 and received a Parent’s Choice Recommended Award. Judging from my own daughter’s reception of this book and my delight in repeated readings of it, I can see why this book has such appeal. I hope you can find it in your local library for I, too, recommend it as a parent’s choice! Incidentally, this book fits in well with other Hispanic-themed children’s books and if you are looking for more titles in this vein, please do check out PaperTiger’s Hispanic Heritage Month reading list for 2008.