Anne Seignol, director of the EuropeanSchool in San Pablo de Heredia, north of San José, was always on the lookout for books that would interest children in reading as well as instigate learning, but there were none that fulfilled her ideas.
So, she wrote one.
“Crónicas de Mi Tierra” (Chronicles of My Country) was written with fourthgraders in mind, but its eye-catching design and illustrations encourage children of all ages, as well as adults and anyone learning Spanish as a second language, to pick it up.
Each of the four stories takes place in a different province of Costa Rica and includes a map of the country pinpointing where the story is set, as well as a list of vocabulary and expressions, some very colloquial, so that readers become acquainted with more than just a story.
Add to this the delightful color drawings by Olga Anaskina, who teaches art classes at the EuropeanSchool. Parrots and palm trees, frogs and flowers, the country wedding and the tropical jungle are undoubtedly Costa Rican.
The story “La Boda” describes the preparations and ceremony of a wedding in San Rafael de Heredia, from the renting of a Nissan to transport food and guests, to the late arrival of the priest and the mariachis come to serenade the couple.
“Portalón” takes a couple of teenagers to Quepos, on the central Pacific coast, to visit Aunt Jenny during the rainy season, when rivers overflow and all the neighbors gather on high ground.
In “El Turrialba,” William, Enrique and Laura climb the volcano on the Caribbean slope and meet a boy who lives nearby.
“Nocturnadas” takes us to the Caribbean port of Limón, where two visitors from France, the author’s native land, come to explore the jungle with area residents.
The stories are short and won’t bore young readers. Each one includes expressions and words for discussion, and a vocabulary list at the end of the book helps readers learn new words.
“The children learn about their country, the customs and expressions; it’s language and social studies together,” says Seignol, who uses the book in her fourth-grade classes. “And it’s Costa Rican,” she emphasizes.
Seignol says she wrote the book for the fun of it. However, she found that there are no really nice children’s textbooks here – those that exist are from Colombia or other
countries – so her fun project became a teaching tool.
Her students learned more using “Crónicas,” she says, because it’s about their own surroundings. As an exercise, they make maps of Costa Rica and trace the line of the stories. Each story includes suggestions for readers to draw or describe a scene from the text.
The book is 70 pages of easy-to-read type, and is sold at Librería Internacional stores for ¢3,500 ($6.80).
“Crónicas” is now the first of a series of six books. The author is collaborating with storyteller Yvette Castro to produce “El Gran Baile de los Caricacos y Otros Relatos de Costa Rica,” so that third-graders can also learn about Costa Rica the easy way. Books for other grade levels will follow.
Seignol was born in France and lived in other parts of Latin America before coming to Costa Rica in 1976. She is the director of the EuropeanSchool, which she founded. To buy the book in quantity or for information, call the school at 261-0717.