The Escola del Mar rediscovers stories written by the pupils of the 1930s in 'Parlen els menuts’ [The Little Ones Speak]

Barcelona City Council and Edicions de la Universitat de Barcelona are publishing 'Parlen els menuts', edited by Jordi Brasó i Rius and Xavier Torrebadella Flix, a book that brings together over forty stories written by the children of the Escola del Mar in Barcelona between 1933 and 1936, and is illustrated with drawings by the pupils of today.

Once upon a time there was a school built of wood on a beach in La Barceloneta. It was a modern building, where the children enjoyed the fresh air, the sun, the light, the sand, the wind and the sea. It was part of an innovative educational movement that had made Catalonia a key point of reference in the field of education. The Escola del Mar was founded in the middle of an industrial city in 1922, with the aim of improving hygiene, promoting culture and moral values, and fostering children’s intellectual development.

The school functioned as a small republic, governed by the children themselves along the lines of a hierarchical yet democratic model, as roles and positions – as class leaders, librarians, etc. – were rotated among the children. However, on 7 January 1938, in the middle of the Spanish Civil War, the school was bombed: dark times of indoctrination in a Spain ruled by dictatorship were fast approaching.

This year, the Escola del Mar celebrates the 100th anniversary of its foundation, and Parlen els menuts pays tribute to the institution itself and to the children who suffered the war years, with a thoughtful edition that includes drawings by the pupils of today.

Stories written and illustrated by the pupils of a ‘unique’ school

The book was launched last Tuesday, 13 December, in the theatre at the Escola del Mar. Núria, Pol and Oriol, three of the illustrators of this intergenerational book that straddles two centuries, read three stories written by children that came before them who studied at this rather unusual wooden school. “It really was unique: a school that stood on the sand for children who needed health and education. It was built from wood, and looked like a ship about to set sail”, explained Jordi Brasó, co-author of the book. Under the guidance of the principal, Pere Vergés, the teachers set about creating a first children’s republic, with rights and duties, games, competitions, music, drama, concerts and more. They even produced a magazine, called Garbí, where the rediscovered stories were first published.

Also speaking at the event were Teresa Guillaumes, principal of the Escola del Mar; Núria Obiols, lecturer in the department of theory and history of education at the University of Barcelona (UB) and an expert in children’s stories, and África Guerrero, one of the teachers from the school, now retired, who coordinated the illustrations.