Monday, June 27, 2011

Beyond Buenas noches, luna

I was approached recently by an English-speaking customer who was the mom or guardian to a little girl who knew some Spanish. The customer was eager to help the child keep her Spanish up, and asked me if I knew of any "classics that every kid should read" in the Spanish-speaking world. I had to tell her that I wasn't sure. Our store carries translated versions of some English-language picture books, and a Google search brought up some Spanish-language nursery rhymes, i.e. "Arroz con leche" ("rice with milk"). But classic bedtime stories? The question would probably have been easy for someone who grew up in a Spanish-speaking culture, but I had no idea.

What are some equivalents of Goodnight Moon, The Cat in the Hat, and Curious George in Spanish-speaking countries? I imagine it varies by country; though American kids' reading certainly has some intersection with that of British kids, Australian kids, Canadian kids, etc., I'm told that Enid Blyton, for instance, is much bigger elsewhere in the English-speaking world than she is here.

In fact, I'm curious now about what the children's classics are all over the world. Do most cultures have some kind of children's canon? Do oral stories fill this role in some countries? Is that only the case in countries where literacy rates are low and/or books are difficult to afford?

A few stories do reach us, obviously; a Hebrew-speaking customer yesterday asked the name of "the most famous Swedish children's books," and Pippi Longstocking was an easy answer from my American frame of reference. But what about the stories that never get translated or don't become mainstream in this country? What are we missing out on?

If you're familiar with children's classics from another culture, I'd love to hear about it.


  1. This book has been very popular among my Spanish speaking moms:

  2. My grandmother used to read me and my brothers stories about a horse named dog. They were sturdy square hardcovers in Spanish and Perro was always getting into hilarious trouble, like Amelia Bedelia. I loved those stories and we used to BEG for them, but I don't think they would make it in today's American market. I was Perro, for Halloween when I was 6, and I got REALLY MAD when kindly adults would look me over and say "oh how nice, are you a pony?" I would snap, "NO I AM UN CABALLO LLAMADO PERRO!
    Duh, adults. Sheesh.

  3. @Sunglow (I'm guessing I know who you are, and I'm excited that you have a blog!), it's good to see that both nursery rhymes and obsession with animals transcend cultures. Toddlers seem to especially be interested in animal *sounds*, which I know are referred to differently in different languages; I'd love to hear a roomful of kids from different countries singing about animals.

    @Dani, I would've found a dog named horse absolutely hilarious as a kid. I know this because I thought it was hilarious when Peter Hatcher named his dog Turtle.

  4. "Arroz con leche" is one of the best recipes From Latin-America, I would like to eat it after take my lunch !