Elena Rides

Pura Belpré Award-winner Juana Medina (Juana & Lucas) uses superb pacing, amusing words and strong illustrations to create an early reader that should resonate with young children. [Also available in a dual-language edition, Elena Rides/Elena monta en bici.]

Learning to ride a two-wheeler bike can be difficult. As Elena, a spunky blue elephant wearing a green bike helmet, tries and tries again to master the skill, an encouraging red bird cheers her on. At times, it seems like Elena will give up. After she crashes yet again, she says "N-O: NO!" and stubbornly stays on the ground with her two front legs pulled up to her chest. The red bird gently refuses to take no for an answer: "Try again, Elena. You can do it!" With renewed courage and resilience, "Elena rides!"

The need for perseverance is a common theme in children's books and Medina motivates young readers through her use of language. Rhyming words ("She readies, she steadies"), the use of similar initial consonants ("she pushes, she pedals!") and internal vowel sounds ("Elena glides! She flies") should inspire children to read by themselves. Onomatopoeic words that explode over two pages ("KA-BANG!" and "KA-PLUNK!") will likely entice kids to shout out the words. The bold digital illustrations--with thick black outlines, a limited array of solid blue, golden yellow, red and green, and lots of white space--perfectly capture the fun and anguish of Elena's experiences on the bike. --Melinda Greenblatt, freelance book reviewer

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