Great Kids' Books from French authors to read in July 2016
France's national day (also called Bastille Day) is on July 14th, to commemorate the Storming of the Bastille in 1789, during the French Revolution. During this day of celebration, French people usually get a day off work to get together and watch military parades and fireworks in the evening. Moona thought of an another way to celebrate this holiday: the good children's book to read for this month of July will all be classic and children-favorite books from France and other French-speaking countries!
Let's start with a classic that everyone around the world knows and loves: Babar the Elephant. You probably read some of his stories as a kid, but have you thought of introducing him to your own children ?
The series pans over numerous books, first written and illustrated by Jean de Brunhoff and then by his son, Laurent de Brunhoff's. The last one was published in 2014, so there are books for every taste: both nostalgic classics dating back to as early as 1931, and modern books that still retain their vintage feel. Either way, you'll feel like you're sharing a part of your childhood with your little ones!
In the very first book, The Story of Babar, the reader meets a little elephant who leaves the jungle and finds himself in a big city. He meets an Old lady who buys him his iconic green suit and gives him an education. When he returns to the Elephant Realms, he becomes the new king thanks to his new knowledge and wisdom, and marries Céleste. Of course, this is only the beginning of his adventures. But you'll have to discover the rest by yourself!
Beechwood Bunny Tales (La Famille Passiflore in French) is another beloved series of French children's book in a comic format, written by Geneviève Huriet. The characters are a family of bunnies, the Bellflowers. Five children (Poppy, Violette, Dandeliob, Mistletoe and Periwinkle) live with their caring father, Bramble, a gardener, and with their aunt, Zinnia, who is sometimes a bit tough with them but loves them all the same. Different stories center around these characters. They mostly take place in an charmingly old-fashioned countryside where different small critters live together peacefully.
More than thirty books have been released in France, while only seven of these have been translated into English. They all feature lovely soft illustrations in a traditionnal style by Loïc Jouannigot. They are very detailed and both you and your child will love to look at them to point funny things out and invent stories.
Of course, one can't talk about French children's stories without mentioning one of the world's most famous tale writers, Charles Perrault. This collection gathers all of his known work, including for instance Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella... Be warned, though: while these fairytales are for children, they are way darker than their disney counterparts. Most of them don't have happy endings, and some, such as Blue Beard, are even frankly bloody. You might want to keep this version for older children or to enjoy yourself and stick to Disney for your little ones :)
This edition is complete with handrawn watercolor illustrations by Sally Holmes which your kids will love to look at. Overall, it is a classic, old-fashioned fairytale book, which makes it an intemporal read that every generation will find things to love in.
Let's look at a few more modern French book series for younger children and toddlers now. Little Brown Bear is a cute hero living everyday adventures – taking a bath, playing in the snow, having a walk... Claude Lebrun's character first appeared as a short strip in a French children's magazine, Pomme d'Api, but he had a lot of success and his stories were soon published in book format. This success comes from the simplicity of the stories, that even the youngest children can identify themselves with, from Danièle Bour's easy-to-read illustrations, and from the endearing main character, who is an adorable teddy bear and a 3-year-old prankster all in one. With its short format, Little Brown Bear is an ideal bedtime read for young children, and a stapple of many French kids' libraries.
Another very famous character for toddlers is Caillou. The author, Christine L'Heureux, is not French, but Canadian. She created her little protagonist in 1987, along with illustrator Hélène Desputeaux. You probably already know this imaginative 4-year-old who loves to play pretend and tries to make sense of the world around him with his child's logic. His adventures take place in his imaginated world as much as in the real world, in which Caillou can rely on his loving family and his friends.
But now for some fun facts! If you're familiar with this character, you may have wondered why he is always drawn as a bald child. It is not actually because he has cancer or another illness. He was first designed as a baby who was too young to have hair already. When the author decided she should make her character grow older for him to have more interesting adventures, she kept this characteristic of his, while using it as a message of tolerance: everyone is different and it's a good thing! Caillou's name also comes from his lack of hair. “Caillou” means “pebble” in French, and there's a french expression, “Not to have a single hair on your pebble” which means to be bald!
And finally I wanted to present one of my favourite French children's authors and illustrators, Claude Ponti. He is well-known in France for his fantastic detailed illustrations and his imaginative universe. I chose to present here his very first book, the marvelous L'Album d'Adèle, that you may be able to find in English. He drew Adèle's album for his daughter Adèle. It is wordless book in which you follow multiple storylines, all conveyed through minute details in drawings throughout this giant-format album. Kids and parents will love to spend hours finding new stories and discovering new characters, which are recurrent in Claude Ponti's work, as well as puns, humor and references to pop culture. Since it doesn't have any text, this album is suitable for children of any age, and even older kids won't get tired of reading it again and again.
Moona Journal Author