Elena's Serenade

By Stephie Brady EDEL 411 Section B

Geeslin, C. (2004). Elena's serenade. New York: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division
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Information About the Book

Author: Campbell Geeslin

Illustrator: Ana Juan

Genre: Fiction (Fantasy)

Topic/Theme: You can do anything if you put your mind to it.


  • Americas Award for Children's and Young Adults Literature Commended
  • ALA Amelia Bloomer Project
  • Blue Spruce YA Book Award Nominee
  • Parents Foundation Award
  • Comstock Book Award for Best Picture Book

About the Author

Campbell Geeslin lives in White Plains, New York, but visited Mexico many times when he was a little boy with his family. His idea to write this story comes from his memory when he watched Monterrey glassblowers turn broken Coca-Cola bottles into vases for flowers. He is a retired 87 year old man who is the author of 7 books.
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About the Illustrator

Ana Juan was born in Spain in 1961 where she studied fine arts. She then moved to Madrid where she began to publish illustrations in newspapers and magazines. Ana has illustrated for many children's books and uses a lot of acrylic and crayons in her illustrations. She also won the National Illustration Award in 2010.
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Example of an illustration from the book. The media used is acrylic and crayons.
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Other books Ana has illustrated for...

Criteria for Notable Multicultural Books

1. Characters should be portrayed as unique individuals within the culture- This is shown throughout the book because the illustrations in this book are so abstract. The story takes place in Mexico, and the illustrator did a good job of showing what that would look like in the pictures. Each character is wears clothing that is important to the culture and the backgrounds are realistic. Another thing that makes the illustrations unique is the way the animals are drawn. They don't look like your typical dog, cat, or bird. They aren't proportional to the people and don't have realistic colors on their body. Each page is different in its own way which makes the illustrations completely unique.

2. Gender roles within the culture should be portrayed authentically, reflecting the changing roles and status of women and men in cultures- What I love most about this book is that the main character, a girl, fulfills her dream to become a glassblower which is a man's job. The story starts out by Elena's father saying she can't be a glassblower because she is too little and girls usually aren't glassblowers. Elena is determined to be a glassblower so she pretends to be a boy and sets out on a journey. During her adventure she learns to be a glassblower and comes back to Monterray and proves her father wrong. It demonstrates that gender doesn't always have an effect on what cultures say that do.

3. Language should reflect distinctive vocabulary, style, and patterns of speech of the cultural group- Spanish is used throughout the story. It has the word in English but also tells you what it means in Spanish. For example, "In Mexico the sun is called el sol and the moon is called la luna." That is the first sentence of the book. It addressed vocabulary especially for students who speak Spanish because it has both English and Spanish words for them to hear.

Lesson Idea

Grade: 3rd

Standard: 3.RIT.6- Distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text

Objective: The student will describe the author's purpose or message behind writing the book.

Lesson beginning:

  • The teacher will begin the lesson by asking the students if they have been to another country or state. What are some things that are special to that area? What kind of food do they eat? How do they dress? Lead the discussion to where you end up talking about Mexico and how glassblowing is something they do there. Pay attention to the different things you see in this book, Elena's Serenade. As we read, think about the overall message this book portrays.

Lesson middle:

  • Read the story aloud and stop as you go to point out key points in the story. (being told girls can't be glassblowers, Elena pretending to be a boy, going on the journey to reach her goal, and returning to her father) What is Elena's ultimate goal? What gave her the determination? How did her motivation change along the journey? What impact did she make on the other characters and animals? What did her father think of her when she returned home? Why do you think the author decided to have Elena dress up as a boy to accomplish her goal? Why did the author have the story end up as a success? What would be different if the author wrote the ending to have Elena fail in her journey?
  • As students share answers, have them give examples from the book as to why they think that.

Lesson ending:

  • After reading the story the students will write a response to two questions:

1.) In your opinion, what is the overall message/lesson in the story?

2.) Write about a time where you wanted to accomplish something and how you did it.

  • When finished, students will share with peers around them.

Click the link below to listen to the book