Dear readers, I have another author interview coming up and while I have already introduced you to one of my favorite of her books, Do, Re Mi, I want to review four more here to give you a little more of an appetizer. Suzie Morgenstern has written over 60 books predominantly for children, and won many major French Literary Awards. An American, she moved to France as a young adult, marrying a French mathematician and has spent most of that time residing, working and writing here in the city of Nice. I got to know Susie first when, as school librarian, I invited her to speak during our annual book week. As a very successful bilingual author, she was a huge hit with our students.
A 24 four page board book for the very young full of an expressive mix of photos and pictures demonstrating that delightful period all toddlers go through of “No”, “again”, “Not!”. Young children will have no problem relating, to grasping or delighting in the message and this period of their lives.
Arthur takes his comfort blanket (which just happens to be his mum’s bra !) everywhere, EVERYWHERE. : in the garden, to kindergarten, in the subway, to bed… and even to the beach. But a sudden gust of wind and, woops, it is whisked off into the air. It’s a little tricky to recover the item from the coconut tree. An older boy on the beach fails. The gull fails. The giraffe fails. The monkey fails…. I will leave you to discover who succeeds. The happy ending has Arthur reunited with the flying bra. Small children will giggle out loud at the ridiculous story and enjoy the simple, bold stylistic pictures.
Pauline et la “pipi brigade”, Les Questions de Quentin, Rebecca and la ratatouille A book for children of 6-9.
This is P-R of an alphabetical chapter book series. Suzie really captures the interests/actions of this age group in her three short stories .
P – the Pee-Brigade. Susie understands well toilet humour of this age group. Pauline hates the school toilets: everyone noting how much toilet paper you take from the public roll, the fact that the doors reveal you from the knees down etc and like her friends, she chooses to cross her legs all day at school rather than face the embarrassment. Eventually she comes up with the idea of forming the “pipi brigade with her friends, a great solution of solidarity and privacy protection.
Q – Quentin is the archetype of the six year old who never stops asking questions!
R- Rebecca and her brother love to repeat phrases their parents use:
Unfortunately none of these superlatives fit what they really feel about their mum’s ratatouille, which they hastily try and make disappear, while pretending to delight in the dinner. Their plan, of course, turns a little awry!
Lettres d’Amour de 0 a 10 (Secret letters from 0 to 10) For ages 8-12
The cadence of the story is soothing and the style is formal and almost old-world in French; I hope the English translation has maintained this French charm, as it is an important element for this story, which reads beautifully out loud. It is the story of how new relationships can open up a whole new world for our lives. The 10 year old orphan, Ernest, leads a precisely predictable and mundane life with his grandmother in a traditional Parisian apartment, with no telephone and no television. Here the hour and content (an apple) of his afternoon snack is as sure as the sunrise. This world is invaded and transformed by an encounter with the new girl in his class, Victoria.
Victoria and her 13 brothers live a life of glorious exuberance, joie de vivre and expansive relationships, in complete contrast to Ernest. Victoria begins to introduce him to her world of possibility and he starts to stray from his dull routine, and one day, discovers a book in the grocery store. He has never been to the grocery store until he meets Victoria, but on this fortunate day, he discovers a paperback that may have the answer to his life-long question; where is his father, and why did he leave him?
Victoria’s love of life (and Ernest) is truly contagious and the reader becomes caught up in this friendship of joyous discovery. Ernest does discover the answer to many of his questions, but more importantly, he, along with his grandmother, discover what it means to really live and love, thanks to a bold little girl called Victoria. “Secret Letters From 0 to 10” is an endearing and charming read. We all need a Victoria to take us out of the ordinariness of life!
This book won the French equivalent of the Newbery Award.
The two picture books reviewed are # 62 and 63 in the There’s a Book Read to Me Picture Book Challenge.