The best Spanish chapter books for beginners are hard to find. An online search offers hundreds of options. It’s hard to tell which book is the best fit for a beginning Spanish learner. The cover and description may not give enough information to make the right decision. However, the best Spanish chapter book just may be one from the Celia series by Elena Fortun.
Is this book a good fit for my learning level?
Will I like it?
Is it easy to understand?
Today, I want to share my all-time favorite Spanish chapter books for beginners. They are ideal for reading aloud to yourself, to your kids, or a group of Spanish language learners. This series of chapter books has many features that are perfect for beginning Spanish learners.
Beginning Readers Chapter Book Checklist
- a lot of description
- different time and place settings
- plenty of action
- variety of sentence structures
- able to chunk into small sections
- an engaging story
Let’s see how the Celia series is a good fit for the beginning reader. We’ll take a look at an excerpt and the illustrations. Then wrap it up with some of the books in the series, including the offshoots of her brother and her adulthood.
The Celia Series – Spanish Chapter Books
Elena Fortún began writing short stories for magazines and newspapers. They were a hit and well received by children and adults. She complied her short stories into one chapter book. The first book was titled Celia lo que dice.
Afterwards over the rest of her lifetime she wrote more than twenty classic children’s books. Most of which are in the Celia series. To this day, many have fond memories reading them in their childhood. They are great for beginning readers, including Spanish language learners.
- short chapters
- each chapter is a standalone story
- the stories are jam-packed with action and description
- a large variety of quality words
- the writing is easy to understand
- at least one illustration per chapter
This series is a great source for vocabulary. Reading aloud is an excellent way to build listening, speaking, and reading skills.
About the Author
Elena Fortún, or Maria de la Encarnación Gertrudis Jacoba Aragoneses y de Urquijo) yes, that’s her birthname, was born in Madrid in 1886. She was well-educated and lived in exile for years.
The First Book – Celia lo que dice
After the magazines, Elena Fortún compiled her short stories into one book “Celia lo que dice”. This means “what Celia says”. The stories are all about the life of Celia, a seven-year-old girl in Madrid, Spain. I see her as a girl version of Dennis the Menace. She questions everything and everyone around her. Usually, this sets up perfectly a hilarious scene.
In short, her family is wealthy and her mother is a social butterfly. The English nanny takes care of Celia and her little brother Cuchifritín. She has a cat named Pirracas.
An excerpt from the first Celia book
My children and I love this hilarious scene. We were laughing hard.
Right before this scene, Celia wanted to take her cat on a walk. So, she secretly hid her under her coat. Unfortunately, the cat got lost in the noisy crowd during a festival. When the father found out the cat was missing, he offered a reward for the cat’s return. They ended up with five of the same cats. And no one knew which was the original Pirracas.
This is the scene that follows:
El día de San Anton
En casa han quedado cinco, porque nadie sabe cuál de ellos es nuestra gatita.
– Vea usted el problema en que ha puesto a sus padres.
Para mi Nelly todos son problemas.
-Pues no, señora, no es problema. Los cinco gatos son Pirracas.
–Eso no puede ser….
–Pues si era un Santo y hacía milagros, habrá hecho de Pirracas cinco gatas.
–No puede ser.
–Sí puede ser. Jesucristo hizo de cinco peces muchos peces.
–Eso es, para comer. Y San Antón ha hecho de Pirracas otras cinco para que jueguen conmigo.
As you can see, Fortún has a wonderful way of creating a simple story that is full of meaning, action, and description. Not only that, but the illustrations give a visual picture of the story. This helps the reader to understand without having to translate.
Often, an illustration accompanies the story. For example, this excerpt has the picture above on the opposite page. The pictures help the reader to understand the action and description. That means, the visual replaces translation between languages. This is far better to increase your language processing and memory of new words, especially for visual learners.
The story about the cats is in one chapter of this book. It can stand alone as an individual story. This is important to not overwhelm the beginning Spanish learner. Smaller chunks and easier vocabulary make for a more positive and effective learning experience.
The Books in the Celia Series
The stories and books grew up with Celia. Over the years, Elena Fortún wrote more than twenty books until she died in 1987. Each book follows the life and growth of Celia into adulthood.
List of Books in the Celia Series
- Celia, lo que dice (1929)
- Celia en el colegio (1932)
- Celia novelista (1934)
- Celia en el mundo (1934)
- Celia y sus amigos (1935)
- Cuchifritín el hermano de Celia
- Cuchifritín y sus primos
- Cuchifritín en casa de su abuelo
- Cuchifritín y Paquito
- Matonkiki y sus hermanas
- Celia madrecita (1939)
- Celia institutriz en América
- Patita y Mila estudiantes
- La hermana de Celia: Mila y Piolín
- Mila, Piolín y el burro
- Celia se casa
- El arte de contar cuentos a los niños (1947)
- Los cuentos que Celia cuenta a las niñas (1950)
- Los cuentos que Celia cuenta a los niños (1951)
- El bazar de todas las cosas
After her death, Celia en la revolución was printed for the first time. In this book, Celia goes through the difficulties of World War II. The story gives a picture of daily life during wartime. This one’s on my wishlist!
Spanish Chapter Books for Boys – Cuchifritín
On the other hand, some boys may be more interested in stories about a boy. After publishing several Celia books, the series takes a turn. In book 6, Cuchifritín el hermano de Celia, (the brother of Celia) becomes the main character. Here are some of his books:
So if you’re looking for a good Spanish chapter book for a boy, this is a great option. They have the same features as the rest of the books in the series. They are easy to read and full of a variety of vocabulary.
Other books by Elena Fortun
Here are a couple more books that she wrote. These are a little different than the others. They too are really good choices for beginning Spanish language learners.
Where to Find Hard to Find celia series books
Unfortunately, many of these books are not readily available. Goodreads is a good place to find the Celia books. Some are available online, used, and in public libraries. This link will take you to the listings of 30 of her books and where they are available: Books by Elena Fortún.
Celia Episodes Online
Also, the Celia television series is available online. The episodes first appeared on television in the 1990s. RTVE offers free streaming of the episodes online. They are based on the first few books in the Celia series.
I watched the videos with my kids. We listened to the Spanish Peninsular pronunciation. The videos helped to understand the stories even better. We practiced our listening skills for a different pronunciation style and expanded our vocabulary.
All in all, we love the Celia series. They have been a big piece of our language learning journey. The stories have been a fun way to practice using Spanish and build our language skills. We continue to return to these books again and again.