Paris Bookstore Favorites

A trip abroad =  the perfect opportunity to go book shopping!  While in Paris I spent an afternoon at a bookstore called “Chantelivre,” perusing their delightful collection of picture books and comics/graphic novels. (The latter category, “Bande Dessinée,” are hugely popular in France, for all ages.)

Picture Books on display at Chantelivre

Picture Books on display at Chantelivre

The same titles and names seem to dominate the shelves at my book stores at home, but in France I found lots of new treasures to discover. (There were a couple familiar faces: Mike Curato’s Little Elliot and Oliver Jeffers’ crayon books, and some classics like Max et les Maximonstres, a.k.a. Where the Wild Things Are. )

I was dazzled by this pop-up book by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud, Dans la Foret du Paresseaux (In the Forest of the Sloth.)

Animated images of the book being opened to show a jungle scene

There's something magical about opening a pop-up book.

The complexity of the pop-up engineering was nicely balanced by the simple geometry of the illustrations. With just a few words, the text made me anxious for the plight of the sloth, who we watch napping as danger nears. The book shows the ravages of deforestation, but it is not without hope.

The saleswoman asked me the age of the child I was shopping for. I explained (slightly sheepishly) that I was just buying books for my own collection. She introduced me to a few French classics, including Gabrielle Vincent’s Ernest et Célestine series:

In this volume, Ernest and Celestine lose Simeon (the stuffed penguin) in the snow.

In this volume, Ernest and Célestine lose Siméon (the stuffed penguin) in the snow.

…And she also pointed out Benjamin Chaud’s Poupoupiadours, which combined whimsical and detailed illustrations with creative use of die cutting. Children could read this book again and again and see new things every time. There are several books in this series and they’re all pretty delightful.

Holy detail, Batman!

Holy detail, Batman!

I couldn’t resist Franz, Dora, La Petite Fille et sa Poupée by Didier Lévy and Tiziana Romanin for the charming story and elegant illustrations of Berlin in the 1920’s. Franz is none other than Franz Kafka, and the book tells the story of how a chance encounter in the park with a little girl who lost her doll brings a smile back to the girl’s face and helps the disillusioned writer rediscover the joy of creating.

Nice use of expressive line and just the right amount of detail

I enjoyed the expressive lines and restraint in the illustrations.

Then there was Le Merveilleux Dodu-Velu-Petit, by Beatrice Alemagna, which was like stepping directly into the weird and wacky imagination of our plucky little protagonist. What is a “Dodu-Velu-Petit,” you say? Why, it’s this pink creature (obviously!) It is described as, among other things, “hairy, inedible and extremely rare.” The creature’s many uses are shown on the page at right. (They translate as follows: pillow, scarf, decorative plant, personal masseur, incredible hat, treasure-collector, domestic help, living sculpture, and paintbrush.) I think this is actually an Italian book translated into French.

My favorite page, showing the many uses of the Dodu-Velu-Petit.

My favorite page, showing the many uses of the Dodu-Velu-Petit.

And let's not forget this page, where the butcher threatens the little girl with a bloody knife.

Then there's this fold-out page, where the butcher threatens the little girl with a bloody knife.

Among the Bande Dessinée, I particularly enjoyed Les Carnets de Cerise By Joris Chamblain and Aurélie Neyret for the way that the story alternated between standard comic book cells showing action and scrapbook-like pages showing the protagonist’s journal and sketches. The series follows the eponymous 11-year old, a curious aspiring novelist, on her various adventures. Digital illustrations can sometimes feel a little cold, but in this case the artist did a great job of adding detail and texture to bring the art to life.


I think these books would be a lot of fun for kids in the 8-12 range.

The only problem was finding enough space in the luggage to bring them all home.

A Book and an Agent
From the Sketchbook: France

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