French Fiction

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Well, as I have just started my series of French posts, I thought it only fitting to review a few more French picture books. This will be # 45-47 in the There’s a Book Read to me Picture Book Challenge.

Le petit Hippopo Tam Tam by Yves Pinguilly and Alex Godard.

I can’t seem to get away from hippos at the moment. I think it must be time I wrote my own story about the three Malawian hippos I knew! This was published in 2004 so clearly its inception predates Owen and Mzee, but boy are there some similarities with their true story. Katsi the hippopotamus was not much bigger than a stalk of grass in the bush, but he was an excellent musician, warmly nicknamed Hippo-tamtam by his friends. One day his parents set off alone to visit family on the other side of the bush and warn Katsi to stay close to the waterhole. Now Katsi was a good, young hippo and did what he was told, so it wasn’t his fault that some stray hunters’ bullets caused a vicious forest fire, causing animals to flee and water holes to dry up. Three days the little hippo waited alone hoping his parents would find him, drumming to himself for comfort. Fortunately for Katsi, a curious giraffe heard his drumming and understanding his plight, helped the weakened hippo onto her back. This tender giraffe feeds her adopted son coconut milk and day after day the little Katsi grows until one day he hears some drumming he recognizes. Katsi’s parents hardly recognize their huge son and question him as to whether he plans to grow some more. He explains he will grow until he can kiss a giraffe on the tip of the nose if he stands on tiptoe. Why, ask the bewildered parents, would one want to kiss a giraffe? One would kiss a giraffe, which saves one’s life, of course! I think you can imagine that I really enjoyed yet another book about animal friendship. Blurry savannah-coloured pastel illustrations evoke the African Bush well.  But there is also a very vivid, purple, double-page spread of the fire and fleeing beasts, that is almost too scary for very young children, I feel.


Do Ré Mi by Susie Morgenstern and Marie de Salle.

Susie Morgenstern is actually an American, who has lived over 30 years in France and writes in both French and English. She is local for me and another one of those authors I had the privilege of inviting to school when I was librarian. She has also written some witty and touching middle grade books. I loved the opening scene of this story. Her grandmother drags along a little girl, of around seven, to a classical concert. She is bored to pieces until the violinist begins and then, awestruck, she is convinced she is going to marry him and thus begins her love affair with the instrument (and the musician!). If any of you started to learn an instrument when you were six or seven, you will follow with comprehension, the humorous pictures and text of the frustrations and elations of a young child learning an instrument for the first time. At times the sound she creates make her want to abandon music altogether. At other moments, the music is so magical she is transported heavenward. In the finale our young musician gets to play in the big orchestra and afterwards places her violin in its case with the same care as one puts a baby in a cradle. This is an adorable book for any young musician, with a message about scales, notes, musical passion and perseverance.

Les Cartes de ma Vie by Sara Fanelli.

From a very young age I was obsessed with travel, other countries and maps. This is an awesome picture book introducing the concept of maps , of all sorts, to 5-8 year olds. The double page illustrations fill the entire space with bold childlike pictures in full colour. There are maps of; my route to school, my town, my day, my stomach, some buried treasure and so on…. This is not a book to read to a group, but one to ponder over for hours with one or two children as they look at the humorous details in the illustrations.




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7 Responses to French Fiction

  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! These childrens books sound wonderful, esp. Le petit Hippopo Tam Tam. I just wish I could read French! I’m enjoying the Read To Me Picture Book Challenge. I love finding new-to-me childrens books to fins.

    • Joanna says:

      Hi Sharon,
      I too am finding the Picture Book Challenge excellent for forcing me to review and not just read and for getting to know other bloggers. Thanks for dropping in. Actually you have made me think that I could check which books have been translated into English, when I review from other languages. I am pretty sure that nearly all Susie Morgenstern’s books are also in English, if you have any budding musicians in the family.

  2. Diane says:

    These are adorable books Joanna, and I love the one of the hippo and giraffe, which reminds me I must post my giraffe review. It along with a couple of others are due to be posted soon. I learnt the piano when I was about 8yrs so I can understand how one would feel when they finally manage to get something right. This sounds like a good learning tool this book. The travel book, while not exactly the kind of travel I had in mind… it certainly would make for a lovely discussion for young inquisitive minds.
    Now about this story of yours and hippos…… waiting! (taps a patient foot on floor).

    • Joanna says:

      Hi Diane,
      I particularly enjoyed the first two myself. All these unusual animal friendship books I have been reviewing are great illustrations for kids that, if we are open, we can become friends with folks really different from ourselves. I loved also how the Giraffe here, just as with Mzee, didn’t hesitate to look out for a baby in need, regardless of whether it was her species or not… great maternal instinct! Do Ré Mi has a lot of humour in the text and illustrations, and really captures the ups and downs of learning music when you are little.

  3. Patricia Tilton says:

    Like your review of all three books, but, think my favorite is “Do Re Mi.” I love the idea of a child falling in love with a musician and thus his instrument. Sounds like fun. And, I liked the Hippo Tam-Tam, with its element of music to it. Another book of animal friendships. I enjoyed your reviews. You find such interesting books.

    • Joanna says:

      Do Re Mi was my favourite too… It is strong but endearing book to introduce young children to music. I also think I shall try and see if I can inteview Susie Morgenstern.

  4. Pingback: Susie Morgenstern for all ages : Miss Marple's Musings

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