Elena Rides

by Juana Medina (Author) Juana Medina (Illustrator)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Beginning readers--and beginning riders--will be drawn to this bright, buoyant story of a determined elephant and her loyal sidekick, from the award-winning creator of Juana & Lucas.

Elena wants to ride her bike. She steadies, she readies. She wobbles, she bobbles . . . KA-BANG! Learning to ride a bike is hard. But Elena can do it. She just has to try, try again. With this reassuring story of childlike persistence, Juana Medina, creator of the acclaimed Juana & Lucas series, introduces Elena, a plucky elephant, and the little red bird who is Elena's faithful cheerleader.

Simple, energetic text and bold, brilliant artwork convey a relatable tale of the ups and downs of learning something new (not without protest or tears) and the final thrill of mastery that will have children rooting for Elena and ready for her next adventure.

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Kirkus Reviews

Sensational for reading aloud, with dramatic onomatopoeic opportunities aplenty.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

PreS-Gr 1--A determined purple elephant named Elena buckles on her helmet and hops on a green bike, but her confidence falters after taking a few falls. Turns out that learning to ride isn't easy, especially if you are a large elephant trying to balance on a small two-wheeler. It helps to have a caring friend--in this case, a little red bird who offers words and winged gestures of encouragement and support. Spare but engaging prose that includes just a few words or simple sentences per page effectively captures the experience of learning to ride: "She readies, she steadies...she pushes, she pedals! She wobbles and bobbles...KA-BANG!" Uncluttered illustrations in bright, bold colors convey a range of emotions from anticipation and excitement to disappointment and determination. Beginning readers may find some of the vocabulary challenging, but rhythmic text and expressive illustrations provide context, making it easier to follow along. Elena's persistence offers an important message to anyone attempting to master a new skill, including those just learning to read. It might take a "ka-bang," a "ka-plunk," and a "ka-rash," but they won't give up. VERDICT This cheerful story with colorful illustrations will appeal to new readers and to parents looking for a read-aloud about perseverance.--Jenny Andrus

Copyright 2023 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

She's eager, she's resilient, she has a two-wheeler and a red feathered friend--but Elena, the enthusiastic purple elephant star of this early reader, still has a ways to go to polish her cycling skills. As the view zooms in, capturing Elena's look of expectant pleasure at donning a green cycling helmet, Medina ('Twas the Night Before Pride) kicks off the elephant's on-the-move story with maximum verve: "Elena wants to ride./ Elena buckles her helmet." Rhythmic couplets and plenty of action verbs reveal what happens next as Elena takes off, tongue sticking out--"she pushes,/ she pedals!// She wobbles,/ and bobbles..."--and meets the first of several disasters: "KA-BANG!" She gets up and tries again, but a second fall hits harder: "Elena cries!/ She bawls!" (Her bird friend puts small wings around Elena's leg.) The next ride gets Elena a little farther, her trunk sticking triumphantly out as she "goes, goes, goes," but there's more action and drama to come before, in a moment of victory, "Elena rides!" Medina captures substantial emotional highs and lows in this inspiring tale of persistence, one that's just right for those taking on another learning curve: reading. A dual English/Spanish edition publishes simultaneously. Ages 4-6. (Mar.)

Copyright 2023 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.


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.

Review quotes

Juana Medina
Juana Medina, winner of the Pura Belpré Award for her middle-grade series, Juana and Lucas, has had her charming, sensitive artwork likened to that of illustrators such as Sempé and Jules Feiffer. Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, and a graduate of RISD, where she has also taught, Juana now lives in the Washington, DC, area, with her wife and twin sons.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Candlewick Press (MA)
Publication date
March 14, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV039140 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Self-Esteem & Self-Reliance
JUV043000 - Juvenile Fiction | Readers | Beginner
JUV032180 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | Cycling
Library of Congress categories

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