We love: French Poetry Site

December 2, 2013

cigallefourmiWebsite: http://poesie.webnet.fr

Category: Poetry

Language: French

Summary: As I  mentioned in an earlier post, poetry is considered an important literary art form in France and is taught to children at a young age. When they attended school in France, our children studied and memorized poems with their classes. They liked it and it taught them new vocabulary as well as taught them about the French values expressed within the poems they memorized. The website I am reviewing in this post lets you access many “grands classiques” of French poetry, searching by author or era (15th to 19th Century) and other criteria. You can also share your own French poems and they provide a link to their Android app that you can download for when you must have instant access to French poetry (I love it!).

Age group: Everyone! Pick a poem that is right for you and age-appropriate for your child.

Where you can get it: Just hop on over to the Poésie Webnet website to have access to classic French poems in the public domain. These are true classics that are worthwhile for any Francophile or bilingual student to know. http://poesie.webnet.fr


We love: Coco the Elephant

November 18, 2013

CocoBobo CocoCadeau CocoToutNu CoucouCoco

Coco series by Dorothée de Monfried

Category: Books

Language: French

Summary: Dorothée de Monfried has written and illustrated a series of books about an elephant named Coco and his friends, Sidonie, Gigi (a pig), Pépé (a bear), Nana (a mouse), Lulu (a crocodile). The books are large board books with straightforward text that tells a clear story with some unexpected twists, along with minimalist but attractive art work.

Here is an interview with the author (in French). I learned that she also draws/authors the Les Ptits Philosophes ongoing segment in the magazine Pomme d’Api. Now that I know, I can see her style in those drawings as well. My boys loved those too!

There are at least 10 books in the series as far as I can tell. We own a lot of them, but not all of them. When my older son was a baby, I bought the first of many Coco books on the recommendation of a friend. My kids still love them, but have, for the most part outgrown them,  so we don’t have the newest few in the series. We loved Coco Mange, Un Cadeau pour Coco, Coco Bobo, Coco et les Autres, Coco Tout Nu and more. I see some newer ones that we don’t have including Chez Coco, Musique Coco, Coco ou Croco? If your kids are the right age, run out and buy them right now so you don’t miss out! :)

Age group: Ages 0 to 5.

Where you can get it: You can buy these books on the Amazon France site, at FNAC or any major outlet that sells French-language books. The author has an active Facebook site (in French) as well.

We love: Demain, dès l’aube

October 28, 2013


Demain, dès l’aube by Victor Hugo

Category: Poem

Language: French (but there are lots of English translations out there)

Summary: Poetry is considered an important literary art form in France and is taught to children at a young age. Looking through a  compilation of famous  poems that we brought back from France with us from our most recent trip, I came across Hugo’s moving Demain, dès l’aube that he uses to express shares his lingering sorrow years after the drowning death of his daughter at the age of 19 in the Seine
, along with her husband. It took my breath away. It is surprisingly accessible in French, so be sure to give it a read even if you don’t normally read French literature. It’s short at three paragraphs, but truly a masterpiece.

Age group: This poem discusses grief and death and the back story that surrounds it is tragic, so the reader should be old enough to handle this subject matter.

Where you can get it: I originally found it in a compilation of classic French poetry. You can also find it on the Internet in French and English. Cast a critical eye on English translations found on the Internet as some may be not worthy of the original (while others may be quite good).

This is the poem, reprinted here (as I understand it, this is in the public domain):

Demain, dès l’aube

Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.

Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.

Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.

Victor Hugo

We love: Tom Tom et Nana

October 7, 2013

tomtomnanaTom Tom et Nana series by Jacqueline Cohen / Evelyne Reberg (text) and Bernadette Després / Marylise Morel  (illustrator)

Category: Comic strip in magazines and bound together in books (and spin-off animated TV series)

Language: French

Summary: Tom Tom et Nana are a mischievous brother and sister who play pranks on their friends, parents and each other. Their family owns a restaurant where a lot of the shenanigans take place. Plays on words, funny jokes and situations abound. This is a “clean” (family friendly) series for pre-teens that has my kids rolling on the floor. I have looked, out of curiosity, and it doesn’t seem like this long-lived series has been adapted for the English-speaking market. Perhaps that is a testament to its true “Frenchness,” so check it out for a true kid-friendly French experience!

Age group: I’d say this series is appropriate for kids aged 7 to 11.

Where you can get it: One Tom Tom et Nana story is included each month in the kids magazine J’aime Lire and there is also a series of “books” containing several stories per book. In English, the best way to characterize these these “comics” but that doesn’t really totally describe this French art form. In any case, you can buy Tom Tom et Nana books from the  Amazon France site or other French booksellers. And, yes, there is a Facebook page dedicated to the hilarity that ensues wherever Tom Tom and Nana are found. You can also search YouTube to see episodes from the TV series. They are short and funny and totally family friendly.

We love: A FRENCH BOOK to read all by yourself

September 16, 2013

A FRENCH BOOK to read all by yourself  by Hélène Octave

Category: Books

Language: English primer for learning French

Summary: This book was published in 1936 by Little, Brown and Company of Boston and it was written by “Mlle Hélène Octave” who, according to the preface, taught at the “French Room in the Children’s Home School of the Child Education Foundation” in New York City. Her goal was to create a book that would appeal to children so that they would be inspired to “self-teach” French. We may think making “education fun” is a new idea, but Ms. Octave recognized back in the 1930s that children learn better if books are truly interesting and mimic real life–not just provide boring grammar drills. She offered the little ones  “real-life situations” on the farm, in the garden, at school, at play and elsewhere. The book gives us insight into educational techniques that are still valuable today (if somewhat dated in their implementation by the confines of their era) along with the author’s endearing encouragement to the English-speaking children reading her book to learn French.

Age group: I’d say the book itself was originally targeted at children aged 5 to 8 and today is mostly of interest to adults who like rare/old books, information on teaching methods and all things French.

Where you can get it: From used or rare book sellers. (I received it as a gift my from sweet sister-in-law.)

We love: Romantics Anonymous

August 26, 2013


Romantics Anonymous (original title: Les émotifs anonymes)

Category: Movie

Language: French

Summary: This is a sweet, quirky movie that does not fit the stereotype of “artsy” French films (in a good way). Vaguely reminiscent of Amélie due to the quality of the cinematography as well as its eccentric leads, it is a love story about two people who live life in a constant state of anxiety. However, despite their anxiety, you will be relaxed and charmed by their tale. I don’t normally like romances that much (often too sappy for my tastes), but this is entertaining and sweet without being cloying. Watch the story unfold as Jean-René hires Angélique at his chocolate factory that is at risk for bankruptcy and how their relationship develops.

Director: Jean-Pierre Améris
Writers: Jean-Pierre Améris, Philippe Blasband)
Starring: Benoît Poelvoorde, Isabelle Carré, Lorella Cravotta
Release date: 2010

You can find out more about this movie at the Internet Movie Database and on French Wikipedia.

Age Group: Since this movie is French, it is not rated according to the US system. However, I would give it a PG-13 due to some mild references to sex, and also because younger kids would not be interested in the subject matter.

Where you can get it: I saw it on Netflix for free (with my paid monthly stream subscription) and it is also available on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video or for purchase from Amazon as a Region 1 DVD. You can also purchase it as a DVD on FNAC and Amazon.fr (make sure you can view Region 2 DVDs on your machine if you purchase it from France). All versions should have English subtitles.

We love: Les Pyjamasques

August 5, 2013

pyjLes Pyjamasques series by Romuald

(My English translation: PajaMasks)

Category: Books

Language: French

Summary: The Pyjamasques are three young superheros, Bibou, Gluglu and Yoyo, who  have fantastical adventures the likes that you have never seen. There are 15 books in the series according to the publisher’s site and we own 7 of them. They are published by Gallimard Jeunesse and authored and illustrated by Romuald. The text rhymes and has word plays that appeal to both kids and their parents. The books are sophisticated but playful at the same time. As the publisher says, the illustrations are bold and dreamlike, staying true to the nighttime theme of the stories. The author is keyed in to what makes younger kids shiver with pleasure and a little bit of fright (but not too much). Join the superheros as they bound and bounce through their adventures in space, at the zoo in the jungle or the city scape–the Pyjamasques use their special powers there to keep things in order (for the most part)!

You may think that superheros are skewed toward boys, but in this series there is plenty of girl action too (from their frenemy Lilifée as well as their little sister), but not of the “totally princess” variety.

These books have not been spun off into an animated TV series as far as I can tell, and I am surprised. Maybe they’ll be the next big thing for the under-10 set, so keep your eyes out!

Age group: Ages 3 to 8.

Where you can get it: You can buy these books on the Amazon France site, at FNAC and through the publisher’s site. And, of course, there is a Facebook page dedicated to our friends Bibou, Gluglu and Yoyo.