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Book Review: My Little French Friend by Leslye Jacobs, Illustrated by Al Margolis

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How ya gonna keep ‘em in the playground, now that they’ve read My Little French Friend? Well, after explaining to your little American wanderlusting wee ones about the travails of air travel these days, and dredging up perennial parental wisecracks about, say, the money tree in the backyard, you may want to give them the stick-around incentive that French Friend brings as being only one volume in a Pals Around the World series.

Indeed, if the annually-issued books — which will recount the history, geography, customs, and landmarks of eight countries around the world — go on to fulfill the promise French Friend offers, the series will go on to make a solid dent in the edification of your armchair offspring by the time they go gallivanting globally, whether with the family or after becoming cosmopolitan castaways from the empty-nest. Besides, as attested to by the representative bonus material and addendums in Volume I, Pals Around the World’s installments will contain plenty of supplemental activities to occupy the time between new Pals and planning out trip itineraries.

Written in a widely-ranging and well-considered manner by Leslye Jacobs, and illustrated in effectively pastel tones by Al Margolis, My Little French Friend is narrated by a little French girl named Veronique, who takes us on a tour of all things France, from her home life in the St. Germain des Pres area of Paris to the beaches of Cannes to winter snowboarding in the Alps. She even takes us on the wayback machine leg which chronicles such notables as Joan of Arc, Voltaire, Louis XIV, Tououse-Lautrec, and many more just short of Pepe Le Pew and Napoleon (as if all is fair except love and war).  We even go shopping, including the market square and the bakery; sit down for a family meal with aperitifs; take a school field trip to the Palace of Versailles, going inside to the Hall of Mirrors; and celebrate Bastille Day!

And at the denouement (that's French, too) of a rewarding read, your youngster might be culinarily inspired enough to cook you lunch or dinner from the slew of “Typical French Recipes” — bon appétit! – from the last pages of My Little French Friend, where there’s also a kid-scale, landmarked map of the country, and Flash Cards to bone up on some vocabulary (oui, oui!) from the language of the Louvre (if not love).

Meanwhile there’s plenty of culture and tradition to reflect upon as Veronique bids Au Revoir! – pages packed with fun and facts, entertaining and informative, told in a kid-friendly, mother-approved manner and genuine, unforced tone. Indeed, there’s an all-ages appeal that just might fill in the gaps for an adult or two. For instance, I learned things I didn’t think I wanted to know about goat cheese; vicariously visited for my first time the double-helix styled staircase of the Chateau de Chambord, the only staircase in the world “where you can avoid crossing someone going down when you are going up”; and play boules, or “petanque,” similar to British lawn bowling.

As a matter of fact, I feel informed and famished enough to tackle that recipe for Brandade de Morue. Bet you never thought you’d see that in a children’s book!

For more information, see the
Pals Around the World website. 

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About Gordon Hauptfleisch