21 Jan 2014

Le Trésor de l'enfance

 Our visit to the Language Bookstore yesterday was ostensibly to purchase Japanese copybooks, but somehow we found ourselves in the French section instead.  Funny that.  Somehow, it is much more fun leafing through books you can read compared with those you cannot.  Especially because the Japanese books are much harder to categorise as living or twaddle, since I'm not familiar with the titles and the Japanese style of art is so different from ours.

Anyway, apart from the Japanese books that I shall tell you about later, and two Ghibli movies that I really should tell my long-suffering husband about, we arrived home with two new French books for the collection.  The first is a very funny book called Le Petit Garçon qui Disait Toujours Non (The Little Boy who Always Said No) by David Foenkinos, about a boy who was born contrary, and continued through life the same way, always saying Non!  His concerned and loving parents  read books, consult the Internet (as we do), ask their friends, and then finally resort to a child psychologist.  Nothing works.  The pathway to his first Oui is most  delightful.

The second book is the one I want to tell you about.  Pictured above, it's called Le Trésor de l'enfance (The Treasure of Childhood), published by Gallimard Jeunesse, and a treasure it is, indeed.  It's an anthology of much loved stories, poems and songs, taken from 30 years of Gallimard Jeunesse's book publishing, and listed according to age from 2 to 8.  Some are English classics - Beatrix Potter's Pierre Lapin, Jeff Brown's Flat Stanley, or should I say, Clément Aplati, Kipling's Le Chameau et sa Bosse (The Camel's Hump).  Many more, though are French books by French authors, and some of them are fabulous, and some are great for early learners of French with lots of repetition, and some are Classics, and some are plain strange but fun anyhow.

I really like the L'Homme qui Plantait des Arbres written by by Jean Giono in 1953. It is a story of a shepherd's attempt to singlehandedly replant a deforested valley in the Alps of Provence. Here it is adapted as a film in English, if you'd like to listen:

It is here, too, in French, if you prefer.

On a slightly less serious note, and at a lower level of French, Le Monstre Poilu, or The Hairy Monster is good too.  It's about an ugly monster with an enormous head, a big mouth, dull little eyes and two ridiculously little feet who cannot leave the cave where he lives, and is forced to eat mice.  He would much prefer to eat humans.  One day Le Monstre Poilu captures a king.

- Ha! s'écria la vilaine bête, enfin quelque chose meilleur à manger que les souris.

The king manages to escape being Le Monstre Poilu's lunch by promising to send the next child that he meets.  Children are much more tender, you see, than kings. Only the next child the king sees turns out to be his own beloved daughter, la petite Lucile…

You can see the story acted here:

Despite being written for younger French children, this collection is absolutely perfect for older English speaking children learning to read and narrate French.  The stories and poems range in difficulty from very simple to quite complex tales.  Most of the selections contain the whole unabridged story.  The original illustrations are included. There are great songs and poems to recite or sing.

There are even non-fiction selections, Ruth Brown's excellent counting book, Dix Petites Grains, or Ten Seeds,  is there, fantastic for practice counting backwards, as well as for learning new vocab.  There is Christian Broutin's fabulous book, L'Arbre (The Tree), about the growth of a chestnut tree,  L'Œuf by René Mettler tells us all about the egg, and in La Nature au Fil de l'eau we learn about water - streams, rivers, lakes, estuaries, seas and more.  There is so much vocabulary in this story alone!!

In Australia, French books are expensive, and this one is no exception. On the other hand, it only cost about the same as two or three paperback children's books, and you get about 50 stories and 350 pages and all the pictures.  What a deal!  You can buy it from Amazon France.

There is so much in this anthology that I suspect that I may not have justification to ever purchase another French children's book.  It is a good job I will soon be able to buy Japanese kids books instead, isn't it?   All is good.


  1. Oh my! I've been wishing we had something like this. I might just have to bite the bullet and order it from France.... I had purchased a couple story collections when we were in France last year, but they have mostly been too complicated as yet for my crew, so they have just been shelf sitting. This sounds as if it may be something that would grow with us.

  2. Oh, I know "The Man Who Planted Trees!"--the film, that is. Little Canadian classic narrated by Christopher Plummer.

    That looks like a wonderful anthology!

  3. Oh hey, Canadians---Amazon.ca has two copies in stock, for about $26, and that's just enough for free shipping.

  4. And I just found it used on Amazon US for about $5, including the shipping. :) I'm glad it occurred to me to check that before I plopped down the big bucks to have it sent from France!

  5. Merci beaucoup for the resources!

  6. lol I still understand more French than I can acceptably speak. I felt so blessed when Cait wanted to learn German to have an embassy translator who had live in Germany for years & was totally fluent teach her. Her accent is still good & it has been a huge benefit with every other language she has used in music.


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