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New Book Makes Learning Spanish Fun

The short story collection “El árbol imaginario” (The Imaginary Tree) uses both classic fables and new works highlighting Costa Rican culture to make an attractive option for learning Spanish. The book features 31 tales, 500 highlighted vocabulary words, comprehension questions and dozens of welcoming illustrations.

The 253-page collection is part of publisher La Jirafa y Yo’s plan to offer better learning materials for Costa Rican students. Anne Señol, the book’s editor, said the publishing house was founded out of frustration. She noticed English textbooks were of much better quality than the Spanish textbooks available to Costa Rican students.

“They don’t have that wealth of info, and that concentration of grammar and vocabulary,” Señol said.

“El árbol imaginario,” the second release from La Jirafa y Yo, is geared toward those learning Spanish at a second-grade school level. Señol and other local writers emphasized Costa Rican phrases and expressions for the readers.

The publishing house’s first release, “Leo y Lea,” was made available to students in the northern Sarapiquí region last year. The book was a success, with students falling in love with the characters. A year later, Señol has followed it up with El árbol imaginario.”

Each tale features vibrant artwork done in two separate styles by illustrators Olga Anaskina and Héctor Gamboa. The classic texts include stories by Aesop, Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde.

Señol said it was important to have variety. It’s the best way to get young students to keep reading.

“That’s the way you acquire a language,” Señol said.

“El árbol imaginario” retails for about ¢6,000 ($11) at Librería Claraluna, Librería Universitaria, Librería Nueva Década, Librería Francesa, Café Britt stores and the European School. For more on La Jirafa y Yo’s books, visit

–Matt Levin

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