Kids Read: France

This week we read books from France. There seem to be more and more picture books coming to the market in the United States from France, some that have been translated, and some that were written in English. We even found a wordless book, which was fun!

While we were housebound because of flooding nearby, we were able to do a fun artist study of Claude Monet. I absolutely love picture book biographies, and these books inspired my girls to do some some beautiful art.

This week we are also enjoying the posts and conversations happening over at World Kid Lit , which is hosting World Kid Lit Month. Are you reading any books from around the world this month?

If you know of any other great picture books set in, or about France, please let me know so I can do a follow up post!


Kid Reads

Fox’s Garden

Fox’s Garden, by French born illustrator Princesse Camcamm, published by Enchanted Lion Books, is a beautiful wordless picture book about a fox who finds herself in a town filled with people who want nothing to do with her. A little child, who sees her being shooed away by all the adults, watches as she enters a greenhouse one evening, and brings her a basket of food. He discovers she has 4 little fox kits with her. To say thank you, the foxes bring the child flowers before they return to the woods.

The use of color, shadow, and light in this book is simply breathtaking. The simple message of being kind, and caring for all creatures is poignant, and it is not lost on me that the human who is kind to the fox is a child. My girls have spent a lot of time looking at this beautiful book. My 2 1/2 year old adores wordless books, and can often be found sitting, telling herself the story. We have sat and read it together numerous times and find something new to look at and talk about each time.

I purchased this book for work I do with wordless books in my classroom.

Who Left the Light On?

“In the neighborhood now, you’ll be sure to admire

round roofs, spiral stairways, a rocket-ship spire,

rusted-steel walls, drawbridges, a hat with a spider.”

Who Left the Light On? by French author, Richard Marnier, French Illustrator Aude Maurel, translated by Emma Ramadan, and published by Yonder, an imprint of Restless Books, is a simple, yet powerful story about the choice to be different, and how important difference and diversity is. The neighborhood in the story starts out with all the one-story brick houses sitting in neat little rows with shutters that close at night and open in the morning.  After the occupant of one home dares the leave the shutters open one night, letting light out, little by little the town changes and embraces creativity and self expression until each house is a masterpiece in its own right.

This seemingly simple book works on multiple levels.  My girls loved watching the houses change and spent a lot of time discussing which house they would like to live in and why.  I can see older children understanding the houses as a metaphor for their own self expression. I am excited to use this book in my classroom this year!


I borrowed this book from our local library, but have purchased a copy to have in my classroom.

The Night Walk

Further on, we found a clearing. ‘Let’s lie down,’ said Mama. We gasped at the vast glittering sky. Grass scratched our backs. We stayed until Papa said, ‘Let’s push on. We need to keep walking, so we get there on time.'”

The Night Walk, by French author Marie Dorleans, translated by Polly Lawson, published by Floris Books, is the story of a family with two children who are woken up one night to have a nighttime adventure. The sights, sounds, and smells they encounter are described as they travel through the village, countryside, forest, and up a mountain to reach their surprise destination. My 4 1/2 year old squealed with delight when she realized they were going up the mountain so they could view the sunrise.

The blue, black, white, and occasionally yellow illustrations really set the mood for this nighttime adventure story. It is a wonderful bedtime read. My older daughter loved realizing that kids in France (because the author is from France), may have the same nighttime adventures as she does. On late fall/winter/and early spring evenings my husband often takes our girls on flashlight walks (as they call them) while I cook dinner. Each girl gets a flashlight and they walk around our neighborhood in the dark, shining their lights on whatever they see. These walks are of course much more fun than regular walks during the day. The love them, just like the kids in this book loved their nighttime adventure.

This book was sent to me for review by Floris Books and Publisher Spotlight. All opinions are my own. I only share books I read and reread with my own children.

The Cat Who Walked Across France

“A hand reached under the cat’s chin and scratched. The cat began to purr. He closed his eyes. He was reminded of the hands of the old woman stroking his back.”

The Cat Who Walked Across France, by American born Kate Banks, who now lives in France, and German born Georg Hallensleben who now lives in Paris, published by Frances Foster Books, is the story of a cat who was once loved by an old woman who has since passed away. When he is relocated with the old woman’s belongings to the city, and forgotten about, he begins wandering around France, only to find new love right back where he had once been so happy.

The cat passes by some famous landmarks and features in France – the Eiffel Tower, trains crossing the countryside, old mansions (Versailles maybe?), mountain ranges, and coastal towns. This book could be used as a jumping off point for geography work with a map of France if you got a little creative. My 2 1/2 year old especially loved this book because she loves any story about a cat.

I borrowed this book from our local library.

A Lion in Paris

“The city that had appeared so dreary and frightening and grey in the morning now seemed to be smiling at him with all its windows.”

A Lion in Paris, by Italian Beatrice Alemagna, translated by Rae Walter, published by Tate Publishing, is an exquisite oversized picture book inspired by the statue of the lion in the Place Denfert-Rochereau. It tells the story of a lion who grows bored of the savannah and decides to head to a city. When he finds himself in Paris he discovers he is still unhappy because he longs to be noticed by the people all around. He finally finds happiness in a square standing still as a statue where people finally notice and appreciate him.

Famous landmarks in Paris are highlighted in the mixed-media illustrations that are interesting to look at. The storyline is simple with a sort of dry humor as the lion goes from place to place being ignored by the citizens of the city. My girls really enjoyed spending time looking at the illustrations in this book and talking about what they would do if they saw a lion in our town. Maybe we will head to our local zoo next week to see how the lions are doing there.

I borrowed this book from our local library.

Art

We had some horrible weather here in New Jersey this week, including flooding which left us stuck in our neighborhood until flood-waters receded, so we had an extra day at home that wasn’t planned. Luckily, I have some wonderful picture books about French artist Claude Monet on hand to inspire some art projects of our own. The Usborne Art Treasury, by Rosie Dickins, and Mini Masterpieces: Exploring Art History With Hands-On Projects for Kids, by Laura Lohmann, both include different ways to celebrate Monet’s work.

Mornings With Monet, by Barb Rosenstock & Mary Grandpre, published by Alfred A. Knopf is a stunning, lyrical picture book biography of Claude Monet, focusing on his later years when he would go out on a boat to paint as the sun rose. I learned a ton about his process while reading this book to the girls.

A Blue Butterfly: A Story About Claude Monet, by French-born Bijou Le Tord, published by Doubleday books for Young Readers, reads like a series of poems about Monet’s paintings of flowers, and where and how he painted them. The illustrations are inspiring in their own right and made us eager to pull out the paints.

I purchased these books for use in my classroom and at home over the past few years.


Adult Read

The Years, by French author Annie Ernaux, translated by Alison Strayer, published by Seven Stories Press, was a very interesting and enjoyable read for so many reasons. I’m going to put them in list format, because parts of this book were in list form, something I have never seen done before in this way. I have to say, as a person who enjoys making lists, I enjoyed reading them too.

  • This book weaves personal and national history together, making the national history more personal, and giving the personal history context.
  • The discussion of time and memory gave me a lot to think about. She believes both have changed over the course of her life because of both internal and external factors.
  • The author writes in the collective “we”, which is not something I see done often, and was interesting to see the effects of in the story.
  • This was an interesting examination of technological advances made over a single person’s lifetime, and the effect they have had on life and memory.
  • I appreciated her blunt style and pointed observations of humanity, politics, family, and life.
  • A series of photographs framed this story. The sections each began with a description of a photo (in chronological order from the beginning of the book to the end), and then were followed by a discussion of the memories that popped up as a result of that photo.

5/5 stars

I received this book as part of my August Boxwalla Box, which I paid for myself.


I’d love to hear what books, projects, artists, music, and other fun things you’d recommend from France. Email me, message me, or comment/DM on Instagram.

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