My picture book, Elena's Story, is published by Sleeping Bear Press. Elena, who speaks the Mayan language Mam at home, struggles to practice reading and Spanish for school, while helping with the family chores. When she shares a picture book with her little brother, her mother gives Elena the job of being the reader.

The book takes place in the western Guatemalan highlands, in the department of Quetzaltenango. I visited the area when my daughter Allison worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer. We were at a school on report-card day, and that sparked a story. Some of the students were the first in their families to have the chance to go to school.

Native Languages and Omniglot are resources about the Mam language.

How do Elena and her mother make tortillas? Like this.
Wearing distinctive clothing is a way Maya women and girls show their heritage. See more on traditions in dress and weaving here.

Elena's area is lucky to have community libraries in some of its small towns. The Riecken Foundation works to establish libraries that introduce families to the pleasure of books.

You can download a teacher’s guide here.

                                              Illustration 2012 by Kristina Rodanas. All rights reserved.