Your Library Card, Your Ticket to the World: Oceania

Our library theme for 2020 is Your Library Card, Your Ticket to the World–because with the library, you truly can travel around the world without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Every month in 2020, we’ll be landing at a new place on the globe. We’re in Oceania for February.

Oceania is a vast region that encompasses many countries and cultures and the waterway that is the Pacific Ocean. But I wanted to focus specifically on one place that is very significant to many of our local residents—the Marshall Islands, or Aelõñ Kein Ad (our atolls) as many Marshallese actually call their country. Berryville and Carroll County (and Northwest Arkansas in general) have a growing number of Marshallese residents. In fact, nearby Springdale has the largest population of Marshallese in the continental United States.

For some time at the Berryville Public Library, we have been developing our collection to include more items in Marshallese, as well as informational material to educate our community at large on Marshallese history and culture. In fact, just last week, the library sponsored a 3-hour class on Marshallese culture, history, and language taught by the Springdale-based Marshallese Educational Initiative (MEI). It was an incredibly helpful and fascinating class. We were also so pleased with the turnout and interest the course generated. We quickly filled up all spots in the class and maxed out the wait list. In the end over 35 people attended what was supposed to be a class for 15-20).

If the class whetted your appetite for more information on the Marshall Islands, if you’re just intrigued and want to know more, or if you’re in need of Marshallese language items, check out some of the following books at the Berryville Public Library.

If you like to read historical nonfiction:

Keith M. Parsons and Robert A. Zaballa’s Bombing the Marshall Islands (2017)

Bombing the Marshall Islands

This book covers the extensive Cold War-era nuclear testing that the United States conducted on the Marshall Islands in the 1950s, including the detonation of a bomb 1,000 times larger than the one dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. The long-standing medical, ecological, and cultural consequences of this tragedy is one of the reasons for the Marshallese diaspora to places as far away from their home as Arkansas, and the book provides an overview of both the event and the wider historical context.

If you’re interested in learning more about Marshallese culture:

Daniel A. Kelin II’s Marshall Islands Legends and Stories (2003)


Jack A. Tobin’s Stories from the Marshall Islands: Bwebwenato Jān Aelōn̄ Kein (1992)

We’ve also added books on Marshallese traditional stories, legends, and tales. The Marshall Islands has a rich tradition of oral storytelling, which these books share. They include origin legends, tales of the supernatural, and family stories. Stories also come from a variety of the islands and atolls that comprise the Marshall Islands.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner’s Iep jaltok : Poems from a Marshallese Daughter (2017)

Iep Jaltok

In this gripping poetry collection, poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner taps into the strong matrilineal culture of the Marshall Islands and writes about issues facing the Marshallese at home and abroad in diaspora.

Margaret Read MacDonald’s Surf War! (2009)

Surf War!

Though the above resources were more intended for older readers, we also have an engaging retelling of a Marshellese legend intended for younger readers in Surf War. Sandpiper and Whale clash in a war of words over who owns what that soon turns into a battle between the sea and the beach. Will it be too late when they realize that both need the other to survive?

If you’re ready to learn some Marshallese:

Takaji Abo’s Marshallese-English Dictionary (1976)

Marshallese-English Dictionary

This handy resource includes information on nearly 30,000 Marshallese words, as well as supplemental explanation of grammatical concepts and example sentences.

Byron W. Bender’s Spoken Marshallese (1969)

Spoken Marshallese

If you’d like more than a dictionary, this course is an introduction to basic Marshallese. It is designed to be used with the dictionary as a supplement.

Gerald Aflågue’s My First Marshallese 200 Picture Word Book: With English Translations (2016) and Teach Me To Count in Marshallese (2017)


We have a couple of Gerald Aflågue books in our library, which are geared toward teaching small children the Marshallese language. Both books are fun and brightly colored, with one focusing on words and one focusing on the numbers 1 through 12.

If you or someone you know needs Marshallese language resources to learn English:

Adele Marie Crouch’s books

Technically, these books are children’s books, but they are also intended as study tools for Marshallese students learning English. (And since they are bilingual, with English translations, they also are a great resource for English speakers wanting to learn Marshallese.) They are written to be engaging fables.

These are just some of our great Marshallese resources. If you’re interested in learning more, please just let us know!

And of course, as previously noted, Oceania is a vast, diverse region, and we have lots of other books, movies, and TV shows with Pacific settings. My personal favorite? 1980s sea thriller Dead Calm, starring Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane in their breakout roles.

Dead Calm
Between this and Titanic, when are people going to learn to stop letting Billy Zane on cinematic boats?

Did you attend the Marshallese culture class? What other Marshallese resources would you like to see the Berryville Library offer? What’s your favorite story set in Oceania? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on any of these items or to place them on hold.

Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: