As a parent, it can be a struggle to find great bilingual books in English and Portuguese so I am sure you will be as pleased as I was to hear about these delightful stories!
About the author
Sheila Margaret Ward is an author and composer living in the Algarve following retiring as an English teacher. “I have always been fascinated with learning new languages and I studied Spanish with subsidiary Portuguese at University.” Originally, Sheila came to study Portuguese in the sixties, where between 1980 and 2011, she taught English as a foreign language for over 40 years which includes 30 years of teaching at the British Council in Lisbon, where she developed many ideas on teaching English to children.
Something special about Portugal
It was clear when speaking with Sheila that she is so enthusiastic about Portugal, when asked her thoughts on living here she told The Portugal News that “I decided to do a summer course in Portugal and we got the train from Spain and woke up at 7am when we were coming across the Portuguese border and it was the most amazing experience and so different from Spain.”
“Some people got on the train and we could hear Portuguese spoken, because being at university, it wasn’t easy to hear people speaking Portuguese. It was just fascinating and I just fell in love with it immediately and it was like coming home!”
Three is the magic number
Sheila’s wonderful bilingual children’s books include Freda and Fernando on the River Tagus (2014), Darcy, The Dinosaur (2016) and Freda and the Dolphin (2018). The stories are ideal for primary students from ages 5 to 10. Sheila gave a special mention to Portuguese translator, Pedro Soares and to illustrator Cristina Malaquias for her work on the Freda books as well as illustrator Jennifer Nunes for her work on Darcy, The Dinosaur. Additionally, all three books have some activities at the back and some language exercises making it perfect for both English and Portuguese speakers. Most wonderfully, all of Sheila’s books have songs to go with them which can be found on her YouTube and she also has done delightful audio versions of the stories.
Bilingual children’s books have many benefits and these stories encourage use of a second language but most of all “Bilingual texts give equal validity to both languages” which is something that is exemplified in these stories. I really liked the way in which the author has incorporated Portuguese culture into her stories especially with the focus being on Lisbon through the Freda books.
Sheila has really hit the nail on the head with these books, I particularly love the way the author has colour coded the texts in both English and Portuguese, making it easier for young readers to pick up new words. Sheila’s stories also promote “independent learning because curious children naturally want to decipher the other text which makes it more natural rather than pushing it.”
“My great nephew got one of the books when he was 7 and my nephew sent a picture of him trying to work out the Portuguese version because he couldn’t resist trying just by having the other version was there.”
Freda and Fernando on the River Tagus
Sheila explained that “Whilst working at the British Council in Lisbon, I bought a home to retire in which was in the Algarve so I spent a lot of my time going backwards and forwards as I was teaching during the week. I would come down to Ferreiro de Paços, and catch the ferry boat across the river to get to Barreiro because in those days, there wasn’t the line over the bridge, in the 90s. So, I, used to go on the ferry across the river and catch the train on the other side.”
“One day, it was really choppy and quite scary and thought one of these days we are going to go to the bottom and then I thought these boats having been ploughing backwards and forwards for many years and they haven’t gone to the bottom yet and that is where Freda and Fernando really started, the idea is that ferry boats are old but do a good job and they always get their passengers safely to the other side.”
With Sheila adding that it would take shape every time she crossed the river, it is quite ironic that in my story, Freda and Fernando, the new catamaran is very posh and showing off and gets stuck on a sandbank and the others have to help him and the funny thing is about a year after I wrote this story, a catamaran did actually get stuck on a sandbank!”
Lots more stories to come!
Sheila revealed that she has already finished writing quite a few stories which are ready to be published and are all bilingual. This includes Freda as well as a new Darcy Dinosaur book to delight young readers and families alike. Sheila explained that there will also be a story based on her own nieces and nephews. “They used to come to Portugal on holiday and so I have written a famous five type adventure based in the Algarve, where each one will have an adventure.”
Sheila has done many entertaining presentations in schools and libraries across the Algarve as well as in Lisbon and is more than happy to do more which include her stories and songs so if any schools or libraries are interested, please do not hesitate to contact her through Facebook messenger by searching ‘Sheila Margaret Ward’.
If you are in Portugal and would like to purchase a copy of any of Sheila’s lovely books, the publisher is Chiado Editora but they are also available online from and . Alternatively, in the UK, they are available in The Portuguese Book Shop in London and Grant and Cutler bookshop.
For more information, please visit where you will also find great teaching resources. Wonderful stories and songs for children can be found at
Following undertaking her university degree in English with American Literature in the UK, Cristina da Costa Brookes moved back to Portugal to pursue a career in Journalism, where she has worked at The Portugal News for 3 years. Cristina’s passion lies with Arts & Culture as well as sharing all important community-related news.