'Elena's Story' by Nancy Shaw: a multicultural story of a young Guatemalan girl
“Elena’s Story” by Nancy Shaw and illustrated by Kristina Rodanas is a touching story of a young girl, her mother and her two siblings. They live in rural Guatemala and try to support themselves because Elena’s father is off working on a plantation.
The story begins with Elena getting dressed in the morning and explaining what young girls wear. She wears a huipil, a brightly colored woven blouse, and a corte, which is a loop of fabric that is worn as a skirt with a woven sash tightly wound around the waist to hold up the skirt.
The skirt hinders Elena when she tries to keep up with her mother on the way to school, and it’s a good example of how the traditional dress worn in rural areas, while beautiful, is impractical and serves to hamper girls’ abilities to run and play like boys.
Elena is frustrated because she wants to finish her homework, but her mother says that candles are too expensive. The inference that readers will have to make is that they don’t have any electricity, which is why they must use candles to read after dark.
Elena’s mother relies on her to care for her younger brother, Luis, when her mother is cooking and caring for Ana, the baby. Luis is mischievous and difficult to watch.
Elena and her mother finally realize that Elena is most successful when she reads to Luis, and that it’s a perfect way for Elena to practice her reading and her Spanish (their native language is Mam, a Mayan dialect).
The book is one of Sleeping Bear Press’s Tales of the World books. It would be a great addition to any multicultural classroom.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Sleeping Bear Press, for review purposes.