Tuesday, June 13, 2017

You Talk Funny #OurAuthorGang

The bilingual story of Pico, the Pesky Parrot

Sarah, Emma’s mom, promised to bird-sit Pico for two weeks but soon regrets her decision because the noisy parrot keeps screeching and squawking all day, annoying her family and the neighbors. When Pico makes a mess of Emma’s room, Emma gets very angry, but her friends help her. Charlotte notices that Pico seems sad, and Pedro finds out why Pico is shrieking so loudly all the time. The parrot is frustrated because nobody pays attention to him, and nobody understands what he wants.

A little background to this story

Working as a nurse in the US the past twenty-eight years, having an accent always helped braking the ice with young children who were afraid and nervous when brought to the hospital. "You talk funny. I like it," they would say distracted by my accent and paying less attention to the needle in my hand.

But the first few months, after we moved to the US, were difficult. I had a hard time communicating with people and had to use the dictionary to look up even basic words. Most of my neighbors and coworkers were patient and most helpful. But sadly, I experienced isolation, discrimination, as well as ridicule from some people. It felt like as if my 158 IQ and my good communication skills were reduced to being a "retard" and I learned the words, "*** foreigner" in the first few days on the job working in a restaurant as a dishwasher.

Thanks to my bulldog nature not to let go and keep going, and to my ability to adopt and learn fast, within two months I spoke English at a conversational level, and I advanced my language skills to the level of publishing my first book in 2013.

Young children are open, compassionate and don't judge others by origin, color, or appearance, they either like the person, or not. They learn to judge others later by listening to adults and watching them the way talk about and treat others. They also learn the value of friendship and family from stories.

The purpose of this English and Spanish bilingual book is to show children the beauty of another language and that learning a new language is not easy, but with a little compassion and help from others, it could be fun.

The story also delivers a message that when we don’t take the time to listen to each other, we tend to judge others quickly before we get to know them.

he book in this magazine style presentation

Click HERE

After all the frustration and misunderstanding, the story has a happy ending:


A week later the children saw Molly arriving in a taxi. They went to meet her in the plaza by her favorite bench under the big old tree.
As soon as Pico spotted the old lady he started screeching, “Helllo Mollyy! Wellcomzz homzz!”
Molly looked at her bird astonished and asked the children, “Did he just say my name and welcome home? Did you teach my bird to talk?”
Pedro giggled. “He was speaking all along, but he could only speak Spanish. Now he can speak a little English too.”
“Oh, my!” Molly cried out. “The poor bird was trying to talk to me.”
“The truth is,” Emma confessed, “that I was very angry at Pico for all the noise he made until Charlotte figured it out that he wanted something and Pedro understood what he was saying. We didn’t know that he’s such a smart bird.”
“Yes, I didn’t know either,” Molly sighed. “Sometimes we don’t listen to each other and quickly judge others without getting to know them. We should take the time.” She sat down on the bench turning to Pedro. “Could you teach me Spanish?”
“Yes, of course, it will be fun,” Pedro replied.


Una semana más tarde los niños vieron a Molly llegar en un taxi. Fueron a su encuentro para reunirse con ella en la plaza, junto a su banco favorito y bajo el viejo, gran árbol.
En cuanto Pico vió a la abuelita, empezó a parlotear:
—¡Helllo Mollyy! Wellcomzz homzz!
Molly miró a su pájaro atónita y les pregunto a los niños:
—¿Ha dicho mi nombre y bienvenida a casa? ¿Habéis enseñado a hablar a mi loro?
—Él ha estado hablando todo el tiempo —Pedro rió—, pero sólo sabía hablar español. Ahora también puede hablar un poco de inglés.
—¡Madre mía! —Molly exclamó— El pobre pájaro intentaba hablar conmigo.
—Lo cierto es que yo estaba muy enfadada con Pico por todo el ruido que hacía hasta que Charlotte se imaginó que él quería algo, y Pedro entendió lo que decía. No sabíamos que era un pájaro tan listo —Emma confesó.
Molly les miró detenidamente.
—Si, yo tampoco lo sabía. A veces no nos escuchamos los unos a los otros y juzgamos rápidamente sin tomarnos la molestia de conocernos. Deberíamos tomarnos nuestro tiempo —Se sentó en el banco y girándose hacia Pedro le preguntó:
—¿Podrías enseñarme español?
—Por supuesto, será divertido —contestó Pedro.

This fun bilingual story is available in eBook and print

The teachers said

"As a former ESL teacher, I was impressed by author Erika’s bilingual story about a pesky parrot and wondered why books like this one (written in both English and Spanish at many reading levels and interest ranges) were not available when I was teaching." ~Bette A. Stevens

"Pico the Pesky Parrot is an adorable story that teaches a strong message of compassion, community, and communication." ~Janet Balletta

About the translator of this story

Carmen G. Monterde was born in Barcelona and works as an English teacher and group leader with students of all ages.” That was not easy in Spain for my generation when it came to learning a second language, what´s more, we didn´t have the tools our children have nowadays. And yet, I still think there are two key points that can lead us to bilingualism: motivation and reading. But you have to start when they are young, teaching them  that English is not only a subject to pass at "school", but  a form of communication that opens many doors, including millions of stories we find in books, movies, songs, and so on. The day will come that we have to sit down and talk with them about the professional world and those things that the youngest ones, encourage them so little”

Take a few minutes and watch this video

Watch this fun video 


Erika M Szabo via Google+

1 year ago  -  Shared publicly
Sometimes we don’t listen to each other and quickly judge others without getting to know them.

Joe Bonadonna via Google+

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Today on A Small Gang of Authors author, illustrator, publisher, and my friend and collaborator, Erika M. Szabo , gives us insight into why she writes for children, why she writes bilingual books, and let's us get a glimpse her own life, as well. She also gives us some excerpts from one of her children's books. Check it out, please! #OurAuthorGang
A splendid publishing idea, Erika, that I hope garners a lot of attention. This book concept serves so many useful functions while not violating its compact with potential readers as a vehicle for entertainment. Highly commendable. The tutorial on the cognitive benefits of multilingualism brings a scientific basis to something we've always intuited. Like any good exercise in brain functions, learning to discern in multiple languages has benefits beyond communication and humanistic/cultural understanding. The brain's ability to fight off decrepitude is enhanced. Wonderful. Makes me wistful over having lost the facility I once possessed for speaking English/Polish in a bilingual household that lost its immigrant roots over time. And to further lament that I have *sniff* no one to speak Latin with on a daily basis---O, mihi lachrimae! Kudos for this book idea and multipurpose story.
Thank you Ted! Growing up in Hungary it was natural that people spoke multiple languages. My mother was a business woman and she spoke five languages at conversational level. I constantly heard Polish, Romanian, Slovak, German, Russian words around me and when I listened to the conversation, I could pretty much guess what they were talking about. Since I moved to the US, I rarely speak other than Hungarian and English, therefore, I would have difficulties understanding the languages that I was familiar with, today. But, I'm sure that with a little practice it would come back. My mom told me once, "The more languages you learn, the more cultures you get to know and grow to respect."
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Speaking another language or two or even three or more no matter how well, was considered an asset in my country. I was shocked to find out that's not the same on this continent. Yet, those who speak French have the doors open to many jobs in Canada, especially when applying for the government positions. When it comes to book reviewers, they seem quick to point out errors in the book to authors with foreign names, yet, I read their books and could say the same. I'm super diligent about catching the errors but somehow people seem to find them no matter how many times I proofread my work. I just don't know anymore. Things could be said in different ways in English and their way isn't correct any more than my is wrong. These 'reviewers' and critiquers are usually monolingual. So, embrace your bi or multi lingual and enjoy it. It's been proven time and again that it's beneficial. And yes, I remember studying early childhood education where bilingual was listed as disability, the correct wording was ESL as in English as Second Language. I hope this is no longer seen as disability but rather the advantage.
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Speaking two or more languages is certainly not a disability :) Discrimination is learned and it is very hard to break. Those people thought to feel superior to others who don't have the same beliefs, color or ethnicity. They don't even attempt to know the person behind the accent or racial appearance, they automatically put that person they learned to hate and looked down on in a box that is reserved for unworthy people in their minds. Some of them are willing to change, others don't even try because the negative feelings were installed by their parents so deeply that they're not able to change it. Too bad for them, they miss out on meeting a lot of wonderful people
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True that, Erika.
Wow, Erika! Hat's off to you. What an inspiration!
Thank you Mary Anne :)
Thank you for your insight into growing up in America not being able to speak English. It was really fun learning this about you and I understand now why you wrote books in Spanish and English. I would love to have my book someday available in Spanish since the spells I created for my book are based on the Spanish alphabet.
Sounds intriguing ;)
What an amazing achievement Erika. To write and publish a bi-lingual book is no mean feat and must have been a hard slog. Discrimination is everywhere and I'm pleased that you triumphed.
Thank you Rick! Unfortunately it's true that discrimination is everywhere. Being treated by some people as a foreigner in the country I chose to live in is just a very small part of it. People who lack compassion and knowledge reject others because they're not exactly like them. They might ridicule skin color, ethnicity, beliefs, being overweight or very skinny, they treat people with psoriasis, burn scars or deformity and disability like lepers, just because they refuse to educate themselves. Yes, it's easier to make fun of something they know very little about than learn about the person or condition they're making fun of.
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Excellent commentary. I also have an accent, so I know firsthand what it is to be discriminated because of the way I speak. I learned British English at school, so that it’s what I spoke when I went to the US. Granted, I spoke British English with a Spanish accent, so I confused Americans even more. When my granddaughter was in first grade I use to go every Wednesday to her school and read to her class. None of those children made fun of me. They all thought I talked funny, however none of them judged me. Nevertheless, they all understood every word I said and all of them loved my readings.
Thank you Cristina! British English with a Spanish accent must sound unique and interesting! Yes, kids are not born with the ability to judge, discriminate or make fun of others, they learn it from the adults around them.
Fantastic article, Erika. I learned a few things about you I didn't know, and gained new insight into why you write bilingual stories for children and young adults. I grew up in a bilingual family, but the Sicilian dialect I was speaking when I was 3 and 4 was soon forgotten by the time I was 5 or 6, as I started to learn English so I could go to school with the other 'Mericano kids. Growing up in a Sicilian neighborhood, I did not encounter anything more than a lot of street-fights between the Italians and Sicilians. But when I left "the hood" and started working, I met a lot of people who did not like my ethnic group, which really shocked me. Today I watch my 3rd and 4th generation cousins playing with their multi-ethnic and multi-racial groups of friends, and it's wonderful because this is not discouraged as it was in my day, and it's the best for the kids: they do not judge others the way so many adults do. The bad words among these kids are not the "swear words" --- they are the ethnic and racial slurs, which they will not tolerate. I truly envy anyone who can speak more than one language, and especially those who have mastered English as a second language. That's my Dad's family: Sicilian first, English second. Bravo, Erika -- and thank you for showing me how special and fun it is to write for kids.
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Thank you Joe! Things change quickly but people need time to change. It's so wonderful to hear that your young cousins don't have to face the discrimination you did as a child. Their grandparents changed a little and their parents changed more and showed example to their kids not to judge people because of their ethnicity, color, or just because they learning a new language and they "talk funny"
Thank you Tima Maria! Yes, times change but some people don't. They feel the need to ridicule someone so they can feel better about themselves. They can't help it, that's what they learned growing up. Children who didn't learn to hate yet need stories to shows them that with a little compassion, we can make this world a better place.
Fabulous reason to write a bilingual book, Erika. My own family experienced the same as you when they emigrated from the Czech Republic to Australia in 1950. Seems nothing much has changed no matter where you go.