Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Bilingual Fairy Tales

There's something about fairy tales that bring me back to a special place. I loved the magic, the characters, and the new worlds they introduced to me. We had this gigantic yellow book full of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and I remember reading it over and over again. My favorite story was that of Snow White and Rose Red, two sisters who befriend a bear who ends up being a bewitched prince. Then one day, the book was gone. I believe it was lost in a move, and I searched and searched for that book to no avail. I had other fairy tale books after that, but still after many years, I remember that book and how much it meant to me.

The place where I now live is so much more diverse than the town where I grew up, and I often lament over the fact that there are so many parents who can't speak English and who can't read to their kids because there are very few children's books readily available in other languages. Needless to say, I'm always delighted when I see bilingual children's books and children's books written in other languages, and I was super delighted when I discovered Chronicle Books' bilingual fairy tale series. Written in English and Spanish, the books retell classic tales that children from many countries know and love.

Chronicle Books sent me a copy of the two newest books in the series: El The Pied Piper: El Flautista de Hamelin by Jaume Cela, illustrations by Cristina Losantos and Snow White: Blancanieves by Miquel Desclot, illustrations by Ignasi Blanch.

I think they are wonderful for a number of reasons.

First, paragraphs of English and Spanish are both on the same page, with an accompanying illustration on the opposite page. Parents and children can choose to read in one language or in both languages. They can even compare the two if they want.

Second, whenever I see a fairy tale book, especially a very popular one like Snow White, I get a little irritated when they're based on the animated version of the tale. I'm a traditionalist in the sense that I love the language in fairy tales and often feel that the language gets lost in movies and plays second fiddle to the visuals, the voices, and the music. You can only imagine how happy I was to see that Snow White: Blancanieves is an adaptation of the original fairy tale and not based on the movie. The language is plainly written and easy enough for a beginning reader or language learner while still managing to engage the reader and retell the story that generations of children have loved. The same goes with El The Pied Piper: El Flautista de Hamelin .

Third, the illustrations are colorful and engaging, but they don't distract from the story itself.
In Snow White: Blancanieves, the soft sketches give the book a dreamy feel and take you back to a place lost in time. In El The Pied Piper: El Flautista de Hamelin , the illustrations effectively depict a Germany of long-ago with the clothing of the townspeople and the buildings. They may also induce giggles with the funny facial expressions of the children and rats and the funny costume the Pied Piper wears. They do add a lighthearted tone to the story though while I always remembered it as kind of creepy and sad.

But the best thing about these books is that Chronicle Books has made these tales accessible to a wider audience and has given Spanish-speaking parents the opportunity to share these magical tales with their children in their native language. Not only that, but parents can help instill the joy of reading with their child and create lasting memories. In addition, parents of children who are growing up bilingual can help their children practice reading and speaking both English and Spanish.

I highly recommend these and hope to build my daughter's library with other books in the series:


  1. Thanks for this post! We have several of these bilingual editions: Little Red Riding Hood is my daughter's favorite, and I like the Moorish setting of The Princess and the Pea. Unusual, beautiful, and fun!

  2. Anamaria,
    I'll definitely have to check out Little Red Riding Hood and the Princess and the Pea!