The book “Earl’s Big Adventure in Costa Rica,” the first in a series of kids’ surfing books by New Englander Hanna Haidar, profiles the adventures of a young Gringo and his trusty monkey companion as they hit the country’s sands and waves.
“Surfing is the vehicle that has driven me to travel,” Haidar said. “For some reason, kids just identify with it. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from kids.”
The book, intended for children 3 to 6, also introduces kids to some basic Spanish terms and encourages a multinational viewpoint. The monkey, Earl, befriends many local children as well as foreigners and discovers that language and cultural barriers are easily broken down in play and fun.
“I spent four and a half months in Costa Rica … and I found myself talking to my family about this message that different countries and cultures are scary,” Haidar said. “That’s really bad for kids. I always get asked, ‘Aren’t you afraid to go there?’ That’s an adult question … Kids can be a lot more open-minded than adults.”
The illustrations, by Cape Cod artist Kimberly Newton, are brightly colored and drawn in visible lines with minimal shading. The drawings are fun and cheerful to look at; people and animals appear exceedingly friendly.
The book can be used as a tool for children who have been uprooted from their home countries and are concerned about adjusting to a new culture and language. The message might serve to comfort their isolated hearts and encourage them to assimilate into Costa Rican culture.
“If you treat people the way you want to be treated, people are going to be nice to you,” Haidar said. “Costa Rica is one of the safest places I’ve ever been.”
It also has value for parents who want to raise their children with globalist, travelfriendly mentalities.
“(Because of technology and media) children now are more globally aware than ever. You hope things continue to get less xenophobic and more inclusive,” Haidar said.
All in all, the book captures some of the finer points of the country’s pura vida mindset
and encourages children to expand their concept of the group to which they belong. And the use of a monkey as a main character is not an accident.
“Because he can talk, he has a lot of the same concerns as a 5- or 6-year-old,” Haidar said. “I kind of wanted (Earl) to be a universal character who is fun and everybody can identify with.”
By not choosing the monkey’s race, age or gender, Haidar has made Earl for everyone. And a prominent monkey has never hurt a book, television show or movie yet.
You can buy “Earl’s Big Adventure in Costa Rica” from www.amazon.com or from www.earlsbigadventure.com for $7.99. A sequel set in a for-now secret location is scheduled for release in January.