“The more you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Summer is almost here and kids will be out of school soon. Great for the kids of course, but also time for parents to start getting creative when it comes to giving them something to do to fill up those long summer days. Do not fear! The Center has a range of Basque-themed books aimed specifically at children and young adults and what better way to get your kids interested in both reading and the rich culture of the Basques and the Basque-American experience? We believe these books are both entertaining and educational and we would love to see what you think.
Let’s start with a story for our youngest family members: The Girl Who Swam to Euskadi / Euskadiraino igerian joan zen neska, by bestselling author Mark Kurlansky, is a bilingual English-Basque tale of a little girl who one day, while swimming in the ocean near her home in Massachusetts, swims so hard that she accidentally ends up in a land called Euskadi, where the men have very long ears and flat wool hats and the people speak a strange language. When she eventually swims home she has a hard time convincing the grown-ups around her that this far-off land, where the people eat strange creatures from the sea and sing and dance, really exists. This is an ideal book to read to your youngest kids, at bedtime or anytime, and if you can speak a little Basque, why not read along in this ancient (but still living!) language?
For slightly older kids, Oui Oui Oui of the Pyrenees, by Mary Jean Etcheberry-Morton, is a whimsical story about the adventures of a five-year-old girl, Maite Echeto, her beloved friend Oui Oui Oui, a goslin she raises from the time it hatches, and her mother in the fairyland setting of the French Basque Pyrenees while her father is away in America seeking his fortune. Meet wise old Farmer August in his favorite straight-back chair beside the fireplace and Great Aunt Victoria who, whether spring, summer, or fall, always wears her black coat sweater. Find out why Oui Oui Oui (now a fully grown gander) becomes the pride of the entire village of Peace, where Maite lives with her mother. And once Maite’s father sends for his wife and daughter, will there be a place for Oui Oui Oui in the New World? See a review of the book by Pedro J. Oiarzabal here.
Young adult (and no so young) readers are in for a treat with prizewinning Basque author Bernardo Atxaga‘s Two Basque Stories, with two tales framed around the relationship between grandfathers and grandsons. In “Two Letters All at Once,” Old Martin, a retired Basque sheepherder in Boise, receives two letters in the space of ten days and, being used to thinking a lot all alone on the range, begins to wonder if they’ll be the last letters he’ll ever get from the Old Country. He tries to explain all this to his eight-year-old grandson Jimmy as he reminisces about his past, growing up in a small Basque village, Obaba, with his friends Iharra and Beltza. When Iharra and Beltza fall out, Martin gets stuck in the middle of the feud, and he reflects on the meaning of friendship and unresolved enmities. “When a Snake Stares at a Bird,” this time set in Obaba itself, is a coming-of-age tale in which fourteen-year-old Sebastian, a city kid, is visiting his Grandpa Martin, who talks to animals and dreams of one day going to Terranova. Sebastian meets and falls for Mariatxo, a local girl, but cannot get his grandfather’s strange behavior–wandering into the woods and talking to all the animals there–out of his head. There is an interesting account at Euskal Kazeta of how Nere Lete, the translator of these works, came to undertake this project here.
If graphic novels are more your thing, meanwhile, then the Joanes or the Basque Whaler trilogy is what you’re looking for. Across these three novels, author and illustrator Guillermo Zubiaga tells the epic fictional tale of Joanes, who first tries to ply his trade in local waters, around the Bay of Biscay, but is gradually forced to look farther afield. Without the means to do so, he must ask local witches for help, which entails its own price, a price that will come back to haunt him in the future. While his fame and notoriety grow with every exploit he gets involved in, his flaws are also gradually exposed. This all leads to a dramatic conclusion in which our anti-hero Joanes must face up to his past wrongdoings. Here history, myth, and fantasy combine to portray the experience of Basque whalers, their adventures on the high seas, and ever expanding journeys across the oceans, as an epic equal to that of American cowboys, Norwegian Vikings, or Japanese Samurais.
Don’t forget, too, that the University of Nevada Press has published two books by the biggest selling Basque children’s fiction author of all time, Mariasun Landa: The Dancing Flea and Karmentxu and the Little Ghost, two groundbreaking works that explore topics not usually addressed by American children’s books.
So come on folks… let’s get those kids reading this summer!
And watch this space… because this year the CBS will be publishing the English-language debut of Kirmen Uribe‘s famed Basque gunslinger Garmendia. As well-known as Billy the Kid, Jesse James, or Wyatt Earp back in the day, here in this Wild West adventure story Garmendia is pursued by evil Tidy Harry–who runs Clean City–and his henchmen Rat and Bat.