Children’s literature in Spanish: How and where to find good books in Helmet libraries?

What type of children’s literature can we borrow from the public libraries? Are there any good children’s books in Spanish in the greater Helsinki public library system (HelMet)? You have probably asked yourself these questions several times before.

This tutorial will be very useful for those that are concerned with the promotion of Spanish as a heritage language, for Spanish-speaking families and for teachers of Spanish as a second language. And, also, we hope will be useful for families whose children learn Spanish as a second language and who have an interest in this language.

We’re all more or less familiar with the HelMet system. Finding books in Spanish for children, however, is often not an easy task. We frequently wonder if the books we find on the shelves of our local libraries are the only ones our children may read. The answer is no, there are many more options! Only a small selection of these books, the ones that get borrowed more often, are available on the library shelves. Most of the books in Spanish remain in the libraries’ warehouses. It’s up to us to bring them to the shelves. The more books in Spanish we borrow, the more books will be available, the more new books in Spanish will get purchased. This article will show you how to take advantage of the fantastic resources HelMet offers.

How many children’s and youth books in Spanish are available through HelMet?

The number of available books in Spanish varies from one month to the other. We can, however, say that, at the moment (11.6.2019) there are 1.122 children’s and 211 youth books in the greater Helsinki area public libraries.

There is a great variety of children’s books. There are books for pre-readers, novice and advanced readers: bilingual, with pictograms, novels, classics, translations of renowned authors, fantasy, adventure, comic books, legends, folk tales and picture books. There are also many non-fiction books: first books and interactive books for babies and toddlers as well as books for expanding vocabulary, for instance. There are even books by renowned literary authors that decided to write for children.

Of the 1333 children’s and youth books we found, 517 are works translated to Spanish by authors such as Tove Jansson, Tuutikki Tolonen, Timo Parvela, Astrid Lindgren, Sven Nordqvist, Roald Dahl, Mark Twain, J. K. Rowling, Lauren Child, Cornelia Funke, Hans Christian Andersen, Eric Carle, to name a few. There are also translations of books from the large movie and animation companies.

Among the 694 books by Spanish-speaking authors and illustrators, we found works by Isol Misenta, Isidro Ferrer, Diego Bianki, Paloma Valdivia, Micaela Chirif, Graciela Montes, Natalia Colombo, Luis Pescetti, Ivar Da Coll, Elvira Lindo, Manuel Marsol, Jairo Anibal Niño, Emma Wolf, María Cristina Ramos Guzmán, Marta Altés, María Teresa Andruetto, María José Ferrada, among others.

In HelMet’s catalog, books by authors, illustrators and Latin- American publishers are very few. We, at Kulttuurikeskus Ninho, are working to close this gap with support from the Latin- American Embassies in Finland.

Where can you find them?

Books move around all the time through the library system, but these are the libraries with the largest number of books for children and youth in Spanish:

  • Sello: 214
  • Käpylä: 198
  • Pasila: 195
  • Iso Omena: 188
  • Kallio: 146
  • Itäkeskus: 133
  • Rikhardinkatu: 114
  • Tapiola: 106
  • Oodi: 99
  • Entresse: 87
  • Tikkurila: 75

A smaller set of books gets distributed through the other libraries in Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. The question then is how to access these books, if they are not on the shelves.

The simplest way is to use HelMet’s The 1333 works are in the catalog, all merely a couple of clicks away.

You have certainly already used HelMet’s search engine to find books by author, illustrator, title, subject or collection, for instance. When you are trying to find children’s books in Spanish, usually one of two things happen: you either know the title or author and will be able to find it easily, or you don’t have something specific in mind and want to browse the catalog to find something age-appropriate. In this last case, the search becomes tricky. Many have searched for “Spanish children’s book” and gotten no results. “Advanced Search” is a great option and simple to use when you are searching for something specific that you are curious about. However, when searching for literature in minority languages, like Spanish, everything becomes more complex, especially if someone at home asks you to “stop by the library to pick up a new book to read tonight”.

The key takeaway from this article comes in the form of an asterisk (*). You will see it in the instructions highlighted by the Kolibrís (hummingbirds) below.

This tutorial allows you to complete the “Advanced Search” and have access to the entire catalog of children’s and youth books in Spanish available through HelMet. You will then be able to select and reserve the books and have them sent to the library of your choice.

Check the yellow Kolibrí!

As Hakusana/keyword: write an asterisk (*). With a single click, you will access all the children’s and youth selection of the public library system. There are a lot of books to explore, which is why we suggest you to activate the Genrebox in the bottom right corner. Selecting this option will help you make the search more precise, narrowing it by categories that refer to the age or interest of the reader. Unfortunately, the genres are available in Finnish only. We translated some for you:

  • Espanjakielenkirjallisuus/ Literature in Spanish: 692
  • Kuvakirjat/ Illustrated books: 596
  • Romaanit/ Novels: 388
  • Kertomukset/ Illustrated tales: 176
  • Huumori/ Comics strip: 73
  • Sarjakuvat/ Cartoons: 66
  • Fantasiakirjallisuus/ Fantasy Literature: 69
  • Helppolukuiset/ First readers: 54
  • Klassikot/ Classic Literature: 40
  • Paksulehtiset/ Board books (for babies and toddlers): 50
  • Runokuvatkirjat/ Illustrated poems: 21
  • Suomenkielinen kirjallisuus/ Finnish Literature (Translations): 26

With these resources and others you will find in your own searches, we encourage you to discover new authors and borrow new books to read with your family. Let’s read for others and let them read for us. And, above all else, let’s keep on offering new words to be spoken.

Happy searching and reading!

Lau Gazzotti

See you at Kolibrí Festival, October 3-6, 2019. The full schedule of activities will be available from September 3, 2019, on this website.