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  • 2005 Comstock Read Aloud Book Award

    Elena’s Serenade by Campbell Geeslin, illustrated by Ana Juan, and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers as an Anne Schwartz Book imprint.

    Elena’s Serenade is the first book to receive the Comstock Read Aloud Book Award for the year’s best picture book to read aloud to older children, ages eight to twelve.

    Elena's SerenadeYoung Elena leaves her home to embark on a magical journey to Monterrey, Mexico in order to follow her dream of learning the art of glassblowing. Later, she returns home to her father, who had refused to teach her his trade because no one had ever “heard of a girl glassblower.” Now Elena and her father work side by side; he produces typical bottles and glasses, while Elena combines song with her glassblowing to create “birds, stars, butterflies.” This story celebrates Elena’s uniqueness as an artist and a person, as well as the importance of pursuing a dream.

    With acrylic and crayons, Juan has created luminous paintings with an expressionistic, folk-art quality and a palette of desert colors. Juan’s use of light is particularly noteworthy, especially in the illustrations depicting glassblowing. The rounded figure of Elena and her expressive facial features make her an attractive character. The colors, movement, and details of each painting invite one to linger over every page.

    In selecting this book for the Award, the Read Aloud Book Award Committee noted the lyrical quality of the text, as well as children’s special appreciation of the illustrations. In addition, children were interested in the conflict between Elena and her father and also enjoyed the sprinkling of Spanish words. Readers found the Spanish-English Glossary in the front of the book helpful.

    Author Campbell Geeslin lives in White Plains, NY and illustrator Ana Juan resides in Madrid, Spain.