In Samantha Chagollan's new book The Enchanted Forest/ El Bosque Encantado, Little Red takes a Sunday stroll to visit her abuelita. All along the way, she encounters the big bad lobo, Goldilocks, Thumbelina and other familiar fairy tale friends. The mashup isn't the only innovate spin on classic children's stories where the three bears aren't eating porridge but offering empanadas to Little Red. Chagollan takes the opportunity to give kiddos a little language lesson in Spanish. A lift-a-flap book, The Enchanted Forest is a hands-on, interactive way for young readers to learn how to say words like "forest," "strawberries," and "granny" en español before ever enrolling into dual-language immersion program at OC elementary schools.
Chagollan, OC's own award-winning author and editor of children's books, brings her bilingual fairy tale for some story time fun this weekend in downtown SanTana at Grand Central Arts Center. But before she reveals whether Little Red ever finds abuelita, Chagollan spoke to the Weekly about The Enchanted Forest.
OC Weekly (Gabriel San Roman): How did this project get started? It's not only a bilingual book for kiddos, but a mashup of classic fairy tales!
Pauline Molinari, the editorial director of Walter Foster Jr. Publishing, approached me with the idea. They already had the concept sorted, in terms of a lift-the-flap book featuring Spanish words, and were thinking they wanted to feature a variety of fairy tales, but they didn't have an author attached to the project. We had worked together on a bunch of other books in the past, and she knew this would be a great fit for me. When she told me the concept, I couldn't wait to get started! We decided to feature some different classic fairy tale characters on each spread, and the rest came from that. I really wanted to inject a bit of Chicana humor and fun into the book, so that parents would enjoy reading it too!
In what ways did your own upbringing in OC inform or reflect "The Enchanted Forest?"
I grew up in Huntington Beach; my dad is Mexican and my mom is white. There weren't a lot of Latino kids in my schools, and I really didn't know any other kids of mixed background like mine. We went to visit my grandmother in Whittier every Sunday. She only spoke Spanish, and I only spoke English, so it was pretty difficult to communicate. I would listen to her and my dad speak Spanish to each other, and she always had her telenovelas on in the background, but beyond a few basic words, we didn't really talk to each other much. I was always an avid reader; I loved stories, especially fairy tales! But the characters were usually blond—the only exception was Snow White.
I remember getting so excited one Christmas because my abuela bought me one of those books that came with a record, and it was Sleeping Beauty. When I opened it up, I found the book and the record were both in Spanish! As a kid, I remember being so bummed because I couldn't understand it. I wish there would have been a book like this for me when I was that age, because it would have been something my grandmother and I could have bridged the gap with. We both would have learned something new! And in this Enchanted Forest, Little Red is searching for her abuelita, so I definitely feel like there's a little of my own abuelita in this story too.
How did your recent story time reading in La Habra go? How do children respond to the bilingual book?
The reading at the Children's Museum at La Habra was fantastic! We probably had about 15 kids there, plus their families, and they were so engaged. I taught them each of the Spanish words in the book, and they enthusiastically repeated them back to me! With great pronunciation too! I was so impressed. They were all so excited to learn new words, and they seemed to really enjoy the story. I wear a red cape when I do readings for this book, just like Little Red in the story, so they seemed to really like that too!
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How important is it to have cultural relevant and bilingual books during a child's early literary learning?
Just from my own experience, I think it's incredibly valuable. As our world has become more diverse, there are so many families like mine that have multiple native languages all in the same family. And I think the more we learn about our own cultures and others, especially when we're young, the more we realize how much we all have in common. We all share the same stories, no matter what language or culture they originate from. I love that bilingual children's books are really coming into their own now, so that this next generation will all grow up comfortably speaking multiple languages!
Not only does the book have flap-lifts and bilingual tales, but is beautifully illustrated, too! Tell us more about the illustrator of "The Enchanted Forest."
Aren't the illustrations amazing? The artist's name is Evgenia Golubeva, and she lives in Stratford-Upon-Avon in the UK. We just worked together on the next book in this same series, The Enchanted Castle, which will be out this October. And if it's possible, the illustrations for that one are even cuter. She has a great Instagram feed, you can follow her @neverland_dictator.
Libromobile presents Bilingual Story Time with Samantha Chagollan at CSUF Grand Central Art Center, 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, Sat. 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m., Free. All ages.