Saint Paul Public Library Publishes New Book of Karen Folk Tales, Stories By Five Local Writers

Saint Paul Public Library collaborates with five local writers from the Karen community and an illustrator from the Hmong community to publish its third children's book in the S’gaw Karen language.

Saint Paul Public Library (SPPL) announces the publication of its third book in the S’gaw Karen language, “Children’s Stories,”, opens a new window created in partnership with five local writers from the Karen community in Minnesota: Eh Htee, (Reverend/Doh) Saul Lu, Lay Lay, Ta Mla, and Thay Sai Htoo. The book adds to the body of literature available in the S’gaw Karen language. 

“The library plays an important role in bringing people together to share stories,” said Catherine Penkert, director of SPPL. “We are honored to partner with writers from the Karen community in Saint Paul to write and publish the stories they wanted to share with our youngest community members not only in Minnesota but worldwide.” 

In 2018, SPPL began working with local Karen writers to create a picture book for children. The writers and library staff worked with community members in Saint Paul to identify the stories, some of which are based on folk tales and fables that Karen parents and elders commonly share with their children. The library commissioned original texts from local authors Eh Htee, Doh Saul Lu, Lay Lay, Mla, and Htoo, and original color illustrations from Duachaka Her. 

“I am very excited that we have another book in the Karen language,” said Jenny Ayechit, Karen community specialist at SPPL “There aren’t a lot of books in Karen for parents who don’t read English, so having more books in S’gaw, the Karen language, is something I am proud that the library is offering. Now parents can read an original book written in the Karen language to their children, and the children are able to hold a book in their own language and read it!” 

SPPL published 5,000 copies of “Children’s Stories.” Copies will be added to the SPPL’s collection and distributed to local schools and Karen organizations. A limited number of copies for community members to keep will be available at library locations in Saint Paul starting October 11 (one per household). 

“Children’s Stories” is the third children’s book that the SPPL has published for the Karen community. In 2015, the library published two Karen picture books, “Elephant Huggy” and “The Hen and the Badger.”  

SPPL will launch the book with a community celebration on Saturday, October 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Arlington Hills Community Center. The event will feature music and dance performances and family activities, and a limited number of book copies will be distributed to attendees. A program at 11:40 a.m. will include the following: 

  • The authors will read selections from the book. 
  • Remarks from Library Director Catherine Penkert, Senator Foung Hawj, Councilmember and Library Board Chair Jane Prince, and Chris Xiong from Councilmember Nelsie Yang’s office.  

The event will be held outdoors, weather permitting. 

The project was produced by SPPL and was made possible with generous support from Sandra Schloff; The Clara and Frieda Claussen & Eleanor Hermann Endowment Fund; Bruce Vento & Paul Wellstone Fund; Hubbs Endowment; Libraries Without Borders’ Wash & Learn Initiative; The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library; and the Minnesota Art and Cultural Heritage Funds.