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Books with Basilisks for the Bairns

Basel is also a city full of stories and characters that children will like – two books that have been published this year are proof of this. And even their parents, whether they are locals or expats, will be able to learn something new about this city.

By Martin Pütter


Basilisks appear in Basel in many places. They grace fountains, stand on plinths and can be found decorating churches, and even a local radio station has been named after them – Basel and basilisks are inseparable. Now this mythical creature has also appeared in two recently published children’s books: “Basel’s Hidden Stories” by Jeanne Darling, and “Der Drache von Basel. Abenteuer eines Basilisken” by Jeannine Piesold (the latter in German only).

Legends fascinate children
Despite iPods or smartphones, thrilling stories still manage to arouse children’s attention. “Legends and fables fascinate children”, confirms Jeanne Darling, author of “Basel’s Hidden Stories”. What makes her work so special is thatit was published (in March 2017) simultaneously in an English and a German version (“Basels verborgene Geschichten”)  and the German version is a translation from the original English manuscript.

Born in the USA, the former student and graduate (Masters) of the Harvard Graduate School of Education moved to Basel in 1991. Here she first founded and directed Tiny Tots (today Early Learning Association), and later she worked as teacher at the International School Basel. Only shortly after having arrived here, she began running guided tours for children through Basel’s historic old town. These tours inspired Darling to create the, altogether, six stories in her book, to which Jooce Garrett supplied the illustrations – and one of these stories is about a basilisk.

Becoming actively and artistically involved is desired in this book

A book as map
This particular story, just like the other five, allows the reader to become actively involved. With this book in their hand, using it as a map, they can find the locations where these stories take place. These stories also allow readers to learn, in a playful manner, various details about Basel’s history – and they can also draw and colour. On top of that, reading both versions (German and English) next to each other help with learning another language.

A hero named Basilius
(Currently) only available in German is another book about a little basilisk – who goes by the name of Basilius. “Der Drache von Basel. Abenteuer eines Basilisken” (The Dragon of Basel. Adventures of a Basilisk) describes what happens to this loveable creature, not just in Basel, but also on its travels. With a tongue firmly in cheek, author Jeannine Piesold mixes fables and stories with current events and situations.

Born in Basel and today, among other things, teaching how to play bagpipes, she already loved stories and story-telling as a little child. Her father inspired her very strongly, by telling her many stories – fairy tales, sagas and fantastic adventures – and by encouraging her to read and to listen. This inspiration has helped Piesold with her own children who again and again would like to hear stories, and it certainly can be felt in her first book.

A basilisk at Loch Ness – one of the illustrations by Kathi Horn for this book (©2017 Kathi Horn)

Basel’s connection to Loch Ness
In one of the stories in her book Basilius even travels to Scotland, to Loch Ness, to be precise. There it meets a toothless pike and a sad freshwater oyster – and this story certainly gives the legend of the monster of Loch Ness an interesting new twist. Both to this chapter, and to other chapters as well, the former TBJ contributor Kathi Horn supplied some marvellous illustrations that will certainly inspire the imagination of its young readers.


Darling, Jeanne: Basel‘s Hidden Stories.
2017 Bergli Books, CHF 16.80
48 pages, ISBN 978-3-03869-004-7

Piesold, Jeannine: Der Drache von Basel. Abenteuer eines Basilisken.
2017 Novum Verlag, CHF 32.90
116 Seiten, ISBN 978-3-903155-56-5


Proofreading/editing of English text: Andi Curran
Unless otherwise stated, pictures © 2017 TBJ/Martin Pütter

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