I thought it would be a good idea to get library card and take out some children’s books to help me learn French. I discovered that my level of French is probably about the same, if not worse, than a 3 year olds. But look on the bright side, even just the first book I reviewed on the list reminded me that learning to read is one of the things that gives us a long-lasting happiness.
Never give up.
Le livre qui fait parler les parents et les enfants (de 3 à 6 ans)
Author: Sophie Coucharrière
Illustrators: Clotilde Perrin & Nathalie Choux
This book helps you address some of the big questions in life. There are 10 main themes and each has its own chapter. They are:
- C’est quoi un ami? (What is a friend?)
- C’est quoi la famille? (What is a family)
- Pourquoi il faut obéir? (Why is it necessary to obey?)
- Pourquoi on se bagarre? (Why do we argue?)
- Pourquoi il y a des gens qui n’ont pas de maison? (Why are there homeless people?)
- Pourquoi on a peur? (Why do we fear things?)
- Pourquoi on rêve? (Why do we dream?)
- Pourquoi faut-il protéger la Planète? (Why must we protect the planet?)
- Qu’est ce qui rend heureux? (What makes us happy)
- Pourquoi on vit, pourquoi on meurt? (Why do we live, why do we die?)
As you can see this book dealt with some pretty heavy issues. But I felt better afterwards for having read it and having re-addressed these important questions. I was happy to see that the book dealt with these issues in a very matter of fact way, attempting to remain unbiased and not to impose a set ideology… just telling it like it is.
Here it says that we don’t know what happens after death. Some people believe there is a life waiting for us, others believe there is nothing. Also if you read the little section above you will see that this book can be quiet touching and poetic.
The set-up of the book was nice and organised. First you’d have one of the main questions followed by the bulk of the chapter under the heading ‘C’est comme ça…’ which made me think that maybe the author is a massive Run DMC fan.
Then you’d have a page titled ‘Imagine!’ that would push you to imagine some scenarios like ‘Et si tu avais un magicien pour ami,’ (And if you had a magicien for a friend,) ‘à quoi jouerais-tu avec lui?’ (How would you play together?). Definately something worth thinking about.
Next you would have a little two page BD (comic strip) called Les Adventures de Muguette. Muguette is a stupid little cow (literally).
After this would come a page called ‘C’est clair!’ this would summarise and reiterate what we have learnt in the chapter.
Finally there is a page at the end of each chapter with some drawings by actual real children. Here is a drawing by Suzanne of a bird and a bunny who have been buried alive together in an oversized coffin.
When I was young I believe my family buried a hamster alive because it was hibernating but we’d all assumed it was dead. I don’t know how we realised that we’d made a mistake. Maybe that never even happened. Anyway I like to imagine in this picture that the bird is really happy because it has made friends with the bunny, and rabbits can tunnel so they will easily escape and then scare the people who buried them alive by pretending to be zombies.
In fact, the artwork throughout the entire book was impressive. This is possibly my favourite drawing, its of a darkness monster.
Later, in addition to the artwork and the sections already described you get a double page spread of photography called ‘Regarde!’
And you, what do you dream about when you look at the clouds?
So yeah, pretty damn cool book this one. I’m going to give it ****
PS. I have seen that there is another version for slightly older kids from ages 7 to 10. The main themes in this one sound exciting, for example there is ‘Aaaaah, l’amour…’ and ‘La Grande question’ – so it looks like I will have to search for this one when I get a bit older.
Protégeons la planète
Author: Émilie Beaumont
Illustrator: Sylvie Michelet
This is basically an expanded look into what was covered in the chapter ‘Pourquoi faut-il protéger la Planète?’ from the previous book. However I did not like the tone of this book so much really, as rather than giving some solid reasoning behind why it is important to protect the planet it started out by using some pretty heavy-handed scare tactics.
Some of what followed was sound advice. Like this below, it is good advice to shut the windows and lower the heating if you are too hot, rather than leaving the heating on and opening the windows.
However drawing on both sides of a bit of paper is just taking it too far in my opinion. I’ve always been an artist and wouldn’t want to ruin my pictures by having something on the back that would be slightly visible from the front.
I mean sorry, but imagine if the kids that were making the drawings for ‘Le livre qui fait parler les parents et les enfants’ had drawn on both sides. They would probably not have scanned properly and would have been unusable, and you’d have never got to see Suzanne’s drawing of the rabbit and bunny tomb.
Here is some more quiet outrageous advice. Bottles to stop mice! Coffee or egg-shells stop slugs!
Well who knows. Maybe it works. If it does it would likely be an important discovery. One to remember.When I was a very young I kept a note-book to remember important things like that. One day I drew a snail and wrote ‘snails are not slugs with shells’ … ‘If I’d known what I know now I could have drawn a slug and written ‘slugs are not snails without shells, nor can they traverse broken egg-shells’ …maybe slugs just absolutely hate shells?
Also when I was young me and my brothers and sisters formed a club called The Secret Campers. We would save insects from puddles that were slowly drowning, build ponds, clear rubbish from hedge rows and do anything we could to help mother nature. Our favourite cartoon was Captain Planet. I still believe in taking care of the earth however this book feels like it is taking the same maniac route as the recent re-make of Captain Planet and frankly I think it needs to chill out a little.
Overall then I would give this book ** & 1/2*
Le livre des TROUS
Author: Claire Didier
Illustrator: Roland Garrigue
The book of holes is a book about – you guessed it – the many different types of holes in the world (and even some in space!) In fact, it is Monsieur Trou’s collection of holes and he personally guides us through the entire book. Here he is:
The book begins with an interview with Monsieur Trou where he explains that he started collecting things like socks with holes in them, wind instruments and nets. Then he became obsessed and started seeing holes everywhere and believing holes were the centre of everything. He even has a little manifesto that he thinks explains this mental sickness.
on vient d’un trou – you come from a hole
on entend par un trou – you listen through a hole
on respire par un trou – you breath through a hole
on regarde par un trou – you see through a hole
on fait son trou – you make your hole
on tombe dans un trou – you fall into a hole
on s’échappe par un trou… – you escape through a hole
In spoken English there is a vulgar, rhyming, expression that I think Monsieur Trou would like:
‘Any hole is a goal.’
However this book avoids all innuendo and my review of it will do likewise, because even though the book’s artwork is at times reminiscent of a bawdy 1950’s English seaside postcard, it deals with the subject of holes in an informative and interesting way while not lacking touches of its own whimsical humour.
As a matter of fact Monsieur Trou dives headfirst into our ‘Trous intimes’ and deals with the subject in a mature and scientific manner. He discusses digestion and the anus: the trou du cul… un trou pour évacuer! In this section he also tells us where babies come from and talks about a machine designed by Belgian artist Wim Delvoye that imitates human digestion to make caca.
Here is Monsieur Trou looking at that bizarre machine.
The above photo also shows one of the many impressive design elements of this book: the seemless combination of stock photography and original illustration.
The complexity of the books design may well be its most endearing quality. The mind boggles at the amount of effort that must have gone into the production of this book. Not only is there the aforementioned the blend of standardised font sizes, charming cartoonography and photographs but also there are holes cut into the paper that give a consistency and flow to the narrative by making the pages intertwine.
For example, this hot dog
…becomes a trou normand on the following double-page spread
while on the original (hot-dog) double-page spread the trou normand was an inconspicuous glass on a table.
The scope of topics that have been amalgamated into a collection of holes is also very impressive. The chapters are:
- The trade show of holes
- Holes in the earth
- Animal’s holes
- Holes of the body
- Man-made holes
- Holes in the language
I can’t help but love a book that has a page about holes in literature, featuring ‘The Hobbit’ alongside ‘Le Poinçonneur des Lilas’ one of my favourite Serge Gainsbourg songs.
In the old days in Paris there used to be guys who would validate people’s tickets by punching holes in them. ‘Le Poinçonneur des Lilas‘ is about a guy that does this until it drives him to suicide. One final little hole. A gun-shot shot to the head.
Monsieur Trou lives in the fictional town of Trouville but did you know that in France there is a real town called Trou? Actually it is called Trôo but the name derives from the fact the troglodytic residents built their homes using natural holes in the cliff faces.
In the language section at the back I also learnt some phrases. Here is one that I think fits this blog nicely:
So in conclusion, reading French children’s books is a fun and effective way of language learning, and you’ll also gain some other funky knowledge along the way.
To this final book I give five stars ***** and one big black hole O