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)