Arts and Entertainment

Arlington author, Marysville teacher team up to produce bilingual book

Arlington resident Charles Van Pelt Sr. has written “A Cowboy to be,” also titled “Para Ser Un Vaquero,” a bilingual book produced with the help of Arlington High School Spanish teacher, and Marysville resident, Jessica Swainbank. - Kirk Boxleitner
Arlington resident Charles Van Pelt Sr. has written “A Cowboy to be,” also titled “Para Ser Un Vaquero,” a bilingual book produced with the help of Arlington High School Spanish teacher, and Marysville resident, Jessica Swainbank.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — An Arlington author recently teamed up with a teacher who lives in Marysville to produce a unique book for children.

Arlington resident Charles Van Pelt Sr. has written “A Cowboy to be,” which also has the title “Para Ser Un Vaquero.” Not only is the book intended to teach young readers about the Chisholm cattle-drive trail, which went from Texas to Kansas and was used between 1867-1884, but it’s also a bilingual story, each copy printed in both English and Spanish. While Van Pelt wrote the original story in English, with illustrations by Bob Dunn, he knew he would need help in translating it into Spanish which was why he turned to Arlington High School Spanish teacher, and Marysville resident, Jessica Swainbank.

Swainbank received a message from Van Pelt at her school, asking for her assistance, but since Spanish is only her second language, she turned to two of her own students — Diana Gonzalez, a Mexican-born American, and Jillanna Furgason, who had just recently moved to America from Mexico — to ensure that the writing’s Spanish “sounded” authentic.

“I looked at it first, for basic grammar,” Swainbank said. “Then the students checked it for more conversational speech. They did it during a class period and they would giggle every once in a while as they caught little things that needed to be fixed. It was a great opportunity.”

Van Pelt expressed his gratitude to Swainbank and her students for helping him produce his first bilingual book. Van Pelt’s first book, “Weep Not For Winter’s Cold,” was a collection of poems he’d been writing since the 1970s, until his wife helped him compile them into a book in 2000. His second book, “Hoblins and Goblins,” was a children’s Halloween story taken from that same collection of poems. By contrast, Van Pelt promised that “A Cowboy to Be” will be the first of three books about the Chisholm trail, recounting real-life history through the eyes of a pair of fictional young protagonists.

“I was actually more into the Revolutionary War, but my wife works at the Lake Stevens Library and she brought home these books on the Civil War, the railroads and the trail drives,” Van Pelt said. “I want this story to be an adventure, to appeal to young people. It’s a collaboration between an American and a Mexican as they drive cattle together, run into a storm, and run into Indians who they try to help out. It should be an exciting, heroic story.”

“Charles has said that he’ll send us the drafts of his next books,” Swainbank said. “It’s great for the students to see how a book like this comes together and I hope that, with our proofreading, it comes out the best that it can.”

“A Cowboy to Be” is being sold as far away as Monroe, Snohomish, Stanwood, Mount Vernon and Burlington, but interested prospective readers can purchase their copies more locally at Foster’s on Highway 530 in Arlington, at the BookWorks on 1510 Third St. in Marysville, or at Pilchuck Books and Wise Designz in Everett.

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