Nicholas on Vacation - René Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempé

In our bus we were all shouting, and our team leader said it would be a better idea to sing, so he had us singing all sorts of good songs, about ten green bottles hanging on a wall, and one man who went to mow, went to mow a meadow. After that the team leader said he thought he'd really rather we went back to shouting, and then we reached the camp.

Goscinny, also the creator of the brilliant Asterix the Gaul series, wrote several books about Nicholas, a little French boy who narrates his various misadventures. I remember coming across one of these books at a museum gift shop; it had a wonderfully pleasing cover (it's published by Phaidon), sort of a red canvas cover with a little inset illustration of Nicholas. Goscinny hit upon a clever strategy for writing chapter books without having to come up with an entire connected plot: at the beginning of each chapter is a little summary, akin to the "Previously on..." bits of TV shows, which fills in what happened between the end of the previous chapter and the beginning of the next. It allows Goscinny to jump to the "good parts" without worrying too much about filling in all the details.

It's a charming book and quite silly. Nicholas isn't a horrible child, but when you put him together with a bunch of his friends there's bound to be chaos. His hapless father often gets the short end of the stick. It's all written in a way that gives the reader an idea of what really happened, yet narrated by Nicholas in an innocent, oblivious way. There's not really much plot to describe, other than that in this particular book Nicholas goes to the seaside with his parents, and then later goes to a summer camp.

I read a few chapters to Ridley, too; I don't know that she entirely understood what was going on but she seemed to enjoy it, and there were just enough illustrations by Sempé. The chapters are mostly pretty short, and the entire book didn't take much time to read. A fun little book to read in between more serious fare.

Fed to jonathan's brain | June 11, 2008 | Comments (0)


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