Kid's Stuff -- Books About Paris & France
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There is a surprisingly high proportion of childrens' books about taking trips to Paris... I suspect it may be such a popular theme in modern children's literature because the authors can get a tax write-off their own voyage if they work it into their stories... Perhaps I'm being too cynical, though. I mean, after all, who doesn't want to take their kid to Paris? And if you can't jump on a plane, reading a magical book is almost as good. With that in mind, here are some of ze best oooh-la-la Francophile cheeldrens' books zat I have found...

(PS - if you're looking for a soundtrack to accompany your voyage, I also write about French music on my other website, Slipcue.com. )




"Monsieur Saguette and His Baguette"
Written by Frank Asch
Illustrated by Frank Asch
(Kids Can Press, 2006)

(-)


"Paris Cat"
Written by Leslie Baker
Illustrated by Leslie Baker
(Little Brown, 1999)

A disappointing followup to Baker's sublime Third Story Cat. Here, without prelude, Alice the calico cat and Annie, her girl, are in Paris, and Annie promptly runs off and gets lost. She tours the town, rambling through the Louvre and various other landmarks, but there's very little rhyme or reason to the story, and it doesn't even echo the first volume very well. Lovely watercolors, though. One funny bit is how the little, lost kitty is terrified by the sight of all the dogs that the Parisians take with them to the cafes and restaurants. If only she'd mentioned all the cigarette smoking as well, it would be quite a travelogue! Anyway, this doesn't add much to the original book -- detracts from its magical feel, actually. I'd say skip this one. (C)


"The Cat Who Walked Across France"
Written by Kate Banks
Illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
(Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2004)

(-)


"Madeline"
Written by Ludwig Bemelmans
Illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans
(Viking Press, 1939)

The first of this endearing, long-lived Francophile series. A little girl named Madeline, living in a Catholic boarding school in Paris, goes to the hospital to have her appendix taken out, and when her schoolmates see how cushy things are in the hospital, they all want theirs out, too. Non-Catholics may be leery of the presence of Miss Clavel, the nun who runs the school, but there is no overt religious content, so it isn't really a big deal. Mostly this book features fun, impressionistic artwork and brisk, humorous text (including several wacked-out rhymes that I can only assume are awkward on purpose...) Francophiles will enjoy the scenes of various Parisian landmarks (the Eiffel Tower, Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame, etc.) and adult readers will enjoy the book's sly, sideways sense of humor. There are several sequels, but they seem cluttered and clunky by comparison... This one really is an oddball gem... It's been in print all these years for a reason! (A)


"Madeline's Rescue"
Written by Ludwig Bemelmans
Illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans
(Viking Press, 1954)

Another charming yet odd book by Mssr. Bemelmans... Madeline and the girls from the boarding school adopt a dog named Genevieve, after the dog rescues frisky Madeline from an icy plunge into the River Seine. As with the first book, this one is packed with rich details of Parisian life (unlike the first book, this one doesn't seem to have an explanatory page, telling what all the landmarks are...) The surprise ending (Genevieve has puppies... oops! I gave it away!!) is fun, too, and gives you plenty to talk about. All in all, a nice little read.
(A-)


"Minou"
Written by Mindy Bingham
Illustrated by Itoko Maeno
(Advocacy Press, 1987)

A purposefully upsetting narrative, with wonderful artwork. Minou is a sweet, delicate Siamese cat living in Paris under the care of a kind old lady. Things are great until (Bambi moment!) the old lady falls ill and is taken off to the hospital, where she dies. The orphaned cat is completely neglected by the movers who come to haul the woman's possessions away, and thus Minou escapes onto the streets, where she finds herself unable to charm or flirt her way into a new household. Finally an older, more streetwise cat takes Minou under her wing and teaches her how to fend for herself, and then helps her get a "job" as a mouser in the Notre Dame cathedral. The book was commissioned by an offshoot of the Girl's Club of America, and its goal is to get young girls to realize the value of being self-sufficient and autonomous. The artwork is beautiful, although the death of the old lady and the hardships Minou suffers may be too upsetting for smaller children. Seen just in terms of the body of kids books that celebrate Paris, this is quite nice: the book is quite large and the airy watercolor cityscapes are evocative and inviting. (B-)


"Babar Loses His Crown"
Written by Laurent De Brunhoff
Illustrated by Laurent De Brunhoff
(Harry N. Abrams, 1967)

Babar and his family travel to Paris, where their vacation plans are nearly spoiled after Babar discovers that his crown has been lost, in a luggage-related mishap. We see the sites of Paris -- the Eiffel Tower, the opera house, etc. -- as they dash about the city trying to recover the royal coronet. There's more than a touch of Jacques Tati at play, as the elephant clan bumbles through the capital city, with all its hustle and bustle -- and fear not: all ends well, after all! One of the nicer and least culturally vexing of the Babar books (B)


"There's A Place In France: A Kid's Guide To Paris"
Written by Penelope Dyan
Photography by John D Weigand
(Bellissima, 2009)

Poetry and photographs, exploring Paris with little kids in mind... (-)


"City Walks With Kids: Paris Adventures On Foot"
Written by Natasha Edwards
Illustrated by Roman Klonek
(Chronicle Books, 2008)

A slim guidebook written with kids in mind... (-)


"Fodor's Around Paris With Kids"
Written by Natasha Edwards
Illustrated by Roman Klonek
(Fodor's, 2011)

(-)


"Postmark Paris: A Story In Stamps"
Written by Leslie Jonath
Illustrated by Leslie Jonath
(Chronicle Books, 1995)

(-)


"Everybody Bonjours!"
Written by Leslie Kimmelman
Illustrated by Sarah McMenemy
(Knopf, 2008)

A preschoolers-eye view of a trip to Paris, starting with packing at home and flying on a plane, ending up in a pretty apartment/hotel room, with a great view of the city. A lively, colorful book with very little text, outside of a nice, brief appendix page that describes several of the places seen in the book. This would be a great book to read in preparation of a vacation with a very small child. (-)


"The Cows Are Going To Paris"
Written by David Kirby & Allen Woodman
Illustrated by Chris L. Demarest
(Boyd's Mills Press, 1991)

A fun, funny book about a group of cows who hijack a train and kick the human passengers off at Fountainebleau, then ride the rails to the City of Lights. Once there, they hit all the hotspots -- the Eiffel Tower, Maxim's, the Louvre, the shopping districts, etc. and then return home after their curiousity is sated. The plot is nearly identical to Catherine Stock's later Spree In Paree, and it has a similarly giddy, cartoonish vibe. A fun book, with several impressionist-influenced splash pages that give a feel for the city, particularly a panoramic view from the top of the Tower. Worth checking out if you want to summon up a little bit of the old ooh-la-la. (B+)


"Adele & Simon"
Written by Barbara McClintock
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
(Frances Foster Books/Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2006)

An unqualified masterpiece: Ms. McClintock has outdone herself on this one... Young Simon is a French schoolboy -- dreamy and absentminded, he loses his possessions, one by one, on the way home, as his older sister Adele looks on in exasperation. They visit various Parisian landmarks -- The Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame, Maison Cador, the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle -- all beautifully rendered in McClintock's fine-lined, fantastical style. The pictures are packed with delightful details, including bustling mobs of Parisians in period costume (and one page in which Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline and her schoolmates appear, in a walk in the Jardin de Plantes) and there is a puckish, playful verve throughout. We see the hustle and bustle of a bygone era, at the dawn of the 20th Century. There's a "where's Waldo" element to the story, where the items Simon loses are hidden inside the large, complex two-page panels: the four crayons strewn abound the Louvre are particularly hard to find. All in all, this is a very classy book -- beautiful to look at, wonderfully fun to read. (A+)


"Charlotte In Paris"
Written by Joan McPhail Knight
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(Chronicle Books, 2003)

(-)


"Charlotte In Giverny"
Written by Joan McPhail Knight
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
(Chronicle Books, 2000)

(-)


"Zat Cat! A Haute Couture Tail"
Written by Chesley Mclaren
Illustrated by Chesley Mclaren
(Scholastic Press, 2002)

(-)


"This Is Paris"
Written by Miroslav Sasek
Illustrated by Miroslav Sasek
(Universe, 1959)

(-)


"A Spree In Paree"
Written by Catherine Stock
Illustrated by Catherine Stock
(Holiday House, 2004)

A kooky story about a French farmer, Monsieur Monmouton, and his livestock deciding that it's finally time to take that trip to the capital they've always talked about. Along with his cows, sheep, goats, et.al. Mssr. Monmouton goes to Paris and does the town. They visit all the hot spots -- the Eiffel Tower, the Luxembourg Gardens, the Louvre museum -- prompting double-takes and consternation wherever they go. It's a beautiful farce, with charming artwork and a great, goofy sense of humor. The book's zinger ending -- that the animals want to go to America next -- is answered in the (unfortunately disappointing) sequel, A Porc In New York. (A)


"This Is Paris"
Written by Miroslav Sasek
Illustrated by Miroslav Sasek
(Universe Books, 1959)

(-)


"Eloise In Paris"
Written by Kay Thompson
Illustrated by Hillary Knight
(Simon & Schuster, 1957)

(-)


"Anatole Over Paris"
Written by Eve Titus
Illustrated by Paul Galdone
(McGraw-Hill, 1961)

(-)


"Crepes By Suzette"
Written by Monica Wellington
Illustrated by Monica Wellington
(Dutton, 2004)

(-)


"Harry And Lulu"
Written by Arthur Yorinks
Illustrated by Martin Matje
(Hyperion, 1999)

A bratty little girl named Lulu throws a major fit when her folks won't get her a puppy... and things don't get any better when they try giving her a stuffed animal as a substitute. Things are especially bad for the dog, Harry, who has to put up with Lulu's abuse, which continues even when he secretly comes to life and takes her on an imaginary journey to Paris. Eventually, Lulu mellows -- a little -- and she and Harry become fast friends. In some ways, it's nice to see a prickly girl like Lulu keep her rough edges, but there are scenes where Lulu's language is so harsh, and their arguments are so snappish that I've always had to read around the text in several pages. Still, it's a funny fantasy story, and the resolution is very satisfying. Worth checking out, but overprotectivoids (like myself) may find the tone to be a little too harsh. (B)


"Belinda In Paris"
Written by Amy Young
Illustrated by Amy Young
(Viking, 2005)

The first sequel to Young's delightful dance fantasy, Belinda The Ballerina. Lovely, big-footed Belinda returns, this time as a star performer who is the talk of all Paris... But her big show is about to be a flop, since the airlines have misplaced her one-of-a-kind, oversized dance shoes... Can she find replacements in time for her gala performance that night? Her adventures through a cartoonish Parisian landscape are wonderful fun, both for folks who have been to Paris and for those who have not. And, of course, the happy ending comes with a healthy dose of laconic humor. Another highly recommended, thoroughly enjoyable story... I just wish there was another Belinda book we could read as well! (A+)




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