Recently, my book club read Bringing up Bébé, Pamela Druckerman’s account of raising three children in France. In fact, my local library was a stop on her current book tour and drew many admirers of her work (well, there was also French pastry involved).
The popularity of her book had me thinking that perhaps your grandbébés would also enjoy a peek into la vie française. Books that feature a young child in another country will stimulate their curiosity about diverse cultures and help develop empathy. Have you lived in or visited France? One of these books could give you the opportunity to have an age-appropriate discussion about your travels.
Set the stage with a traditional goûter (snack) of chocolate inside a buttered baguette or Nutella slathered on the sliced bread or a hunk of chèvre (goat cheese) accompanied by an Orangina (grandparents can get away with these indulgences).
If you like, put on a Madeleine Peyroux CD to add to the ambiance. (She’s actually not French, but I adore her.) Pointing out France on a map or globe would clearly add to the educational value and reading aloud with a faux French accent is always fun. Here are the books that I recommend ~
Kiki and Coco in Paris (2012) by Nina Gruener and photography by Stephanie Rausser (age 4+) — This story, about a girl and her doll who get separated in Paris, is as charming as it sounds. Looking at the beautiful photography, I wonder why more children’s books are not illustrated by photos instead of drawings. You could even buy the hand-made doll from doll-maker Jess Brown (though that would be a splurge).
Belinda in Paris (2005) written and illustrated by Amy Young (age 3+) — A friend gifted me with this book a few years ago. This is one of my favorites and not just because the main character and I share names, have rather large feet, love to dance and have spent time in France (though all that doesn’t hurt). Amy Young provides us with an engaging story that highlights the value of teamwork and cooperation and the brightly-colored pastel illustrations add the perfect whimsical touch as we are whisked about Paris.
This is Paris (1959 and reissued in 2004) by Miroslav Sasek (age 4+) — This elegant book is part of Sasek’s beloved children’s travel series; somehow, it manages to be both timely and nostalgic as it brings the lovely city of Paris to life.
Linnea in Monet’s Garden (1987 and reissued in 2012) by Cristina Bjork and illustrated by Lena Anderson (age 9+) — This book is a visual treat and a wonderful way to introduce children to art appreciation. Linnea is fascinated by all things Monet and takes the reader along on her journey. The book includes full-color reproductions of many of Monet’s paintings and is sure to spark an interest in Impressionism on your grandchild’s part. If you live in Chicago, a follow-up trip to the Art Institute is a must!
Charlotte in Giverny (2007) by Joan MacPhail Knight and Melissa Sweet (age 8+) — Presented in a journal/scrapbook format, Charlotte’s story is set in 1892 in an artist’s colony near Claude Monet’s home in France. Charlotte and her family are spending the year there while her father, a painter, studies Impressionism. We follow along on her adventures as she moves from homesickness to enjoying her surroundings and the people she meets. This book also includes full-color reproductions, as well as a glossary of French words and biographical sketches of all the artists mentioned.
The Red Balloon (1967) by Albert Lamorisse (age 3+) — Best described as magical, this is a NYT Best Illustrated Children’s Book of the Year. It is simply the story of a young boy and his friend – a bright red balloon. The accompanying photography is outstanding. If your grandchild enjoys this book, you might want to rent the film of the same name.
Madeline (1939) written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans (age 3+) — This classic children’s book and the others in this series all possess an enduring charm. Madeline is an engaging little girl who lives in a Catholic boarding school in Paris and can make even a trip to the hospital to have her appendix removed a grand adventure. All the beautiful Parisian landmarks are featured. You can also purchase a Madeline doll complete with an appendectomy scar.
Do you have any other books to add to this list?