A children's book by Paul Kimpel. Illustrated by Luis Soler.
** NOTE: In the Spanish language, masculine words end in "O" and feminine words in "A."
Excusing himself from the table, ten-year-old Antonio Soler finished his breakfast and ran upstairs to his bedroom. In his closet, he dug out his grandfather's old, weatherbeaten, olive-green travel bag, the one with the cracked leather handles that had been taped a zillion times with black electrical tape. Antonio went through the house, packing the bag with the following items: a small, retractable brass telescope that he had ordered from the back of EXPLORE magazine, four long, wrapped pieces of beef jerky, a big triangular chunk of Spanish Manchego cheese, and a magnifying glass. He thought about packing his Gameboy, but he knew that he'd have such an interesting day that he wouldn't need an electronic gadget.
Somehow, inside, Antonio knew it was going to be a great, seafaring, pirate-seeking, island-hopping, kind of day. He had felt it as soon as he woke up and looked out his window at the glorious Mediterranean Sea.
Antonio lived in the country of Spain, in a seaside village called Caballero. Although he was only ten, Antonio could think like a grown man because he listened carefully to the teaching's of his wise old abuelo.
Antonio lived with his mother, father, and two sisters, Maria and Anna. They lived in a white-washed adobe house that sat on the edge of the Mediterranen Sea, and on sunny days, which was most days, Antonio traveled to school by sailing a pequeno velero.
Caballero is on the Costa del Sol, which means "coast of the sun." The sun is almost always shining there, and if it does not shine at least once during the day, every citizen gets a free bowl of Gaszpacho soup and a free newspaper for that day! Gaszpacho soup is made from many vegetables and is a favorite among Spanish people. Luckily for the cooks of Caballero, Gaszpacho soup is served cold rather than hot. That saved the cooks a lot of time when the city had to give out free soup. The last time the sun did not shine was the day the poison from the ocean came to the shores of Caballero.
Antonio's father was a sailor and often went on long journeys to exotic and faraway places. His father's trips, which took him to China, Africa, Greenland and beyond, would last for two or three months at a time. Whenever his father came home, he would bring back presents for Antonio and his sisters. But Antonio would rather have his father around every day than have all the presents in the world.
Whenever his father was due back in port, Antonio sat on the terrace and looked through his spyglass for signs of the tall ship. From his terrace, he could see all the tall ships that sailed out on the ocean. He could always tell his father's ship by the flag of the company that owned it. It was white, with a big green star in the middle. Legend has it that the flag was passed down from the owner's abuelo who had been a pirate of the highest ranking.
From the day Antonio was old enough to listen, he had heard stories about pirate ships from many people in the village, and at night he often dreamed about the pirates and the secret islands where they buried their treasure in big chests. He had bought a treasure map last year from an old man at the open-air market, and every night he would lay in bed and look at it, thinking of the route he would sail to get to the island marked on the map.
The island on the map was Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, and the setting for many a pirate story. Looking at the map, Antonio thought he would sail through the Strait of Gibraltar, out to the Atlantic Ocean, and around the Southern tip of Africa to Madagascar. But by using the thinking skills his abuelo taught him, he soon came up with a better route to the island. He would take the Suez Canal route!
The Suez Canal, which had been finished in 1859, could be used to go from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, and then on to the Indian Ocean. The Suez Canal is a wide canal of water that was created when men using large machines cut away a thick slice of land that had joined Saudi Arabia with Egypt. The canal was wide enough and deep enough to permit the passage of large ships like the one Antonio was planning to sail to Madagascar when he grew older.
Antonio knew that one day, he would leave on a tall ship just like his father and abuelo had done. The one thing that Antonio did not know, was that he was going to be leaving so soon!
Antonio's grandparents also lived in Caballero in a small wooden casa near the beach. When they were younger, Abuelo Luis had been a sailor, and Abuela Rosa sold vegetables at the open-air market. In the afternoons, she would watch over the children when they returned from school. But now that Antonio's abuelos were older, they spent much of their time on the porch, looking out at the sparkling blue ocean and drinking lemonade. Sometimes, in the warm afternoons, they would fall asleep while sitting up in their chairs! Antonio thought that was very funny, especially when they snored.
On Saturdays, Antonio's abuelos would come by the house and take him and his sisters to the big open-air market in the center of the village. Together, they shopped for beautifully colored fruits and vegetables, exotic spices, oven-baked breads, and fresh fish from the Mediteranean Sea.
One Saturday morning, his abuelos came by at the usual time to pick them up.
"Are you ready?" Abuelo Luis called through the front screen door.
"We're coming abuelo," Antonio yelled from inside the house. After grabbing his pocket-sized notebook and his super-duper, retractable, flashlightable, indestructible ballpoint pen, Antonio ran outside with one sneaker on his left foot and the other one still in his hand. He sat down on the steps to tie his sneakers while he talked with Abuelo Luis.
"Girls are so slow abuelo," Antonio complained.
Abuela Mirta looked at her husband out of the corner of her eye, which meant he better be careful how he responded to Antonio`s sentence about girls.
"Well, that's because girls have more things to do than boys when they get ready, Antonio," his abuelo answered, hoping that this would satisfy both Antonio and Abuela Rosa.
Antonio looked at his abuelo as if trying to figure out why he said that.
"Yeah, well I guess they do more stuff with their pelo and clothes and everything," Antonio replied as he hopped off the steps and onto the sidewalk.
"I'm ready first!" Antonio said proudly.
Just then, his sisters came running outside as their mother came to the door.
"We're ready too!" they sang out together.
"About time," Antonio said, playfully mocking their voices.
"Be careful and have fun," their mother called, waving goodbye as the group walked off in the direction of the market.
"We will mama," Antonio shouted, as he pulled on Anna's ponytail and ran down the block ahead of everyone else.
| In Spain, most people shop for fresh food on a daily basis on their way home from work. Much of the food is sold in outdoor markets that feature fish, fresh vegetables, fruits and other delicacies that are brought to the market by local farmers and fishermen. The outdoor market that Antonio's family shopped at was on Calle de Albondiga -- also known as Meatball Street! |
It was named Meatball Street by King Ferdinand III in 1658 when he bought himself the world's largest known meatball, weighing a tremendous 11 pounds! The local people said he ate the whole meatball during one dinner!
After that, many meatball shops opened on Calle de Albondiga. Some cooks made meatballs from beef, some from pork, some from turkey, and some, even made meatballs from dandelions!
When they arrived at the open-air market, it was alive and humming with people doing their Saturday food shopping. Antonio and his family decided to split up the shopping, with the girls and Abuela Rosa going to buy the vegetables, and Antonio and Abuelo Luis going to buy the fresh fish. They agreed to meet later at the bread stand.
Antonio walked with his abuelo through the huge market. They looked at all the different foods on the tables, and at the great variety of colored spices that were in burlap bags lined up on the cement sidewalk. Some were stamped "INDIA," some "CHINA," and still others read "THAILAND," or "TURKEY." Antonio stopped to watch as the customers bargained with the wildly dressed spice traders. Antonio couldn't believe how fast the spice traders could talk!
Suddenly, Abuelo Luis tugged on his arm.
"VamanosAntonio!" he said sharply.
Whenever his grandfather spoke in Spanish he meant business. "Vamanos" meant, "let's go" in Spanish.
Antonio turned away from the spice traders and again walked by his abuelo's side through the magnificent world of the outdoor marketplace. They made their way to the fish section where almost everyone knew his grandfather as "El viejo del mar," which means "The old man of the sea." The people greeted him as he walked by, many of them sons of the men he had sailed with in the old days. Antonio was very proud that his abuelo was known by so many people who liked and respected him.
Antonio and Abuelo Luis approached a table where they bought mackerel every week. But as they got closer, they saw there were no pescado on the table. Abuelo Luis questioned the fisherman who was sitting on a stool, mending his nets.
"Where are the mackerel today Juan?" he asked the fisherman.
"It is not good news Luis. But I will tell you because you are a friend of my father's, and you are a friend of the sea. Maybe you can help. The local pescado are very sick. We do not know what is making them sick, but we believe it is something man has put in the water," Juan finished, his face red with anger.
"When did you first notice the pescado were sick?" Grandpa Luis asked.
"A few days ago, when Pedro and I pulled in his nets on the south end of the beach. Of one hundred pescado in the catch, there were only ten that were not enfermo."
"How far out in the sea does the sickness go?" asked Abuelo Luis.
"Not very far," answered Juan. He looked down at Antonio and then back up at Abuelo Luis.
"We have caught fish this morning that are all healthy. For them we had to go out one mile. So we think the source of the sickness comes from very close by."
Abuelo Luis shook hands with the fisherman.
"Mucho gracias" Juan, for telling me the truth. I will do what I can to help," he said.
Then he and Antonio walked away in a hurry. There was detective work to be done!
When Antonio and his family arrived back at the house, Abuelo Luis gave instructions for Maria and Anna to keep the large family telescope aimed at a factory down the road. The factory made sweaters and dyed-wool blankets, and Abuelo Luis suspected they were dumping chemicals into the ocean. Then he gave Antonio a list of things to pack in a large waterproof duffel bag.
Antonio took the list and moved quickly through the house, checking the items off the list as he found them. Within ten minutes, Antonio had packed a camera, two raincoats, waterproof matches, a fold-up fishing pole, a plastic case with fishing lures in it, a waterproof map of the ocean, some more dried beef jerky, a chunk of the new hard cheese and the two loaves of bread they had just bought at the market.
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