I am sure readers here know by now I am a sucker for well packaged and illustrated young adult books. So I guess it is no surprise that I am a fan of Nicholas by Rene Goscinny & Jean-Jacques Sempe brought to US readers by Phaidon.
These 19 collected tales about a French school boy (originally published in French 1959) are published in English with a simple but elegant design that matches the simple but classic New Yorker style illustrations.
The stories are narrated by Nicholas himself. And of course, he sees life as rather simple. He likes to have fun with his friends wherever and whenever they can. But he finds himself puzzled by the adults around with their complex emotions and surprising reactions to life.
Adults on the other hand are constantly surprised to find out just how much chaos young children create in such a short period of time. Whether it is picture day at school, a pickup soccer game in the empty lot, or a play date with a friend the well intentioned Nicholas and his classmate soon have the adults on the verge of breakdown in short order. And anyone who has young children – especially boys – can relate to this all to well.
The stories are droll, tongue-in-cheek, and have a sense of nostalgia about a simpler world (despite the Cold War at the time of their writing) of provincial France. But they are also timeless in that they so perfectly reflect the reality of human nature in both children and adults; and are able to laugh at both.
I have been vaguely aware of the series for some time and have often been tempted to pick this first volume up while on my various jaunts to bookstores. Someone mentioned the stories on Twitter recently, however, and I decided it was high time I read them. I am glad I did.
During a recent illness I needed something simple and fun to read and they fit the bill perfectly. They brought a smile to my face and often an out loud chuckle. I plan on reading them out loud to the family soon. If your family hasn’t discovered this classic series I highly recommend them.