cover image ELENA'S SERENADE


Campbell Geeslin, , illus. by Ana Juan. . Atheneum/Schwartz, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84908-4

In Geeslin's (On Ramón'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.)