Welcome to another installment of Around the World with Newbery and Caldecott Part IV! This post will explore just a few of the wonderful award-winning children’s books of France! This is another preview to my upcoming Back-to-School Literature Soirée. It is just a little over a week away, so if you’re interested, please visit here.
As a Francophile since my early 20s, when I spent nearly a year in Paris, I have returned many times to this fascinating country that holds so much of the world’s greatest art, architecture, cuisine, and natural beauty! I love France for all of these things, but also for the pivotal part they played in helped the struggling American colonies to win their fight for independence from Great Britain.
Probably the most well-known and beloved children’s book about Paris is Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Winner of the Caldecott Honor in 1940, Madeline’s Rescue won the Caldecott Medal in 1954. My friend and former professor, Anita Silvey has done a marvelous job of telling the background of these wonderful creations by Bemelmans here.
Another author of French tales beloved by American children is Claire Huchet Bishop, a French-born American who is best known for two Newbery Honor titles–All Alone, which tells the story of a French boy who herds cattle in the mountains and befriends a fellow herder in need. His compassion leads to the healing of old rivalries in the village. Pancakes-Paris, which is unfortunately out-of-print, tells the tale of a boy given a box of pancake mix by American GIs after WWII. Set during the same period is Twenty and Ten, the story of French school children hiding Jewish children from the Nazis.
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson is the heartwarming story of Armand, a Parisian tramp who wants nothing to do with children. But when three fatherless children “adopt” him, all kinds of adventures happen. Readers will be charmed by the warmth and pathos of this story and by the tender illustrations of Garth Williams who you you will recognize as the beloved illustrator of the Little House on the Prairie series. Winner of the Newbery Honor in 1959.
Winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1993, Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully tells the tale of a celebrated tightrope walker and his friendship with young Mirette. While he teaches the devoted Mirette the art of tightrope walking, he learns some wonderful lessons too. While there are many, many more wonderful titles that I haven’t touched on yet, I will conclude with a title of extraordinary beauty published during the Golden Age of children’s book illustration–the late nineteenth century. Joan of Arc (1899) by Maurice Boutet de Monvel depicts in grand sweeping panoramas, the life of the devout French maid who led the beleaguered forces of her country to victory over England. The artist’s devotion to the French heroine comes through his watercolor paintings with power and exuberance. I will let the following pictures speak for themselves.
There will be lots more like this at my upcoming Rea’s Back-to-School Literature Soirée! Hope you can join us!