Review of Elena Rides

Elena Rides Elena Rides
by Juana Medina; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Candlewick    32 pp.
3/23    9781536216356    $9.99
Spanish ed.  9781536216417    $9.99
Bilingual ed.  9781536232509    $15.99
e-book ed.  9781536231854    $9.99

Medina (Juana & Lucas, rev. 11/16) gives new readers an inviting, cheerful take on the developmental milestone of learning to ride a bike. Elena, an elephant, straps on her helmet and, with the encouragement of her small bird friend, attempts to ride a ­two-wheeler. “KA-BANG!” ends one ride. “KA-PLUNK!” ends another. The illustrations use thick lines and bold solid colors to focus readers’ attention on Elena, the bird, and the bike. The text is minimal, to the point, and appropriate for a new reader, but it’s also musical, playful, and fun to read aloud. Elena “readies” and “steadies,” and she “wobbles” and “bobbles.” Repetition of words and sound blends serves the needs of children who are building confidence sounding words out, without bogging the story down. The illustrations and sometimes even text placement support decoding. On one page Elena “goes up and down and all around,” and we see the corresponding images and text slope up and down the page. After a few tries and some tears, Elena gets the hang of the bike, an apt metaphor for the challenge of learning to read. There are plenty of books about learning to ride a bike, but this one’s approachability for its intended audience, bright imagery, and good humor place it near the front of the peloton. Concurrently published in Spanish as Elena monta en bici, as well as in a bilingual (English/Spanish) edition.

From the March/April 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Adrienne L. Pettinelli

Adrienne L. Pettinelli is the director of the Henrietta (NY) Public Library. She has served on several book award committees, including the 2015 Caldecott Committee, and is the author of Helping Homeschoolers in the Library (2008).

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