Nicholas and the Gang by René Goscinny & Jean-Jacques Sempé, translated by Anthea Bell

 By Ben and Maureen Tai, 7 June 2019

“I like it when it rains really hard, because then I don’t go to school and I can stay at home instead and play with my electric train set.” – Nicholas.

IMG_6350As a child, I adored the Asterix series, created by the French comics writer and editor, René Goscinny (1926-1977) . I would pore over the pages, chuckle at the antics of  the rotund Obelisk and coo with delight whenever the spunky little terrier, Dogmatix, made his appearance. I wasn’t aware of Goscinny’s other children’s books until recently, when conducting a literary reconnaissance at Anna and Ben’s fabulous school library. Nicholas and the Gang (or in the native French, Le petit Nicolas et les copains) is one of a series of early/young reader children’s books about growing up in an idyllic and relatively uneventful 1950’s France. The humorous vignettes in each book, narrated from the point of view of the sensitive and kind-hearted Nicholas, are charming and old-fashioned without being anachronistic. Kudos to the translator, Anthea Bell, for imbuing the English translation with the child-like wonder and clever sarcasm – directed at adults – that Goscinny had intended. Don’t just take it from me. This is what Ben has to say.

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big Nate: Thunka, Thunka, Thunka by Lincoln Peirce

By Ben, 24 March 2019

IMG_2999“Oh, yeah! I was shocked! Stunned! Flabbergasted! Hornwoggled! Gobsmacked!” – Nate Wright.

Sunday afternoons are for loafing around and reading comics.  At least that’s my idea of the perfect Sunday.

Ben’s recommendation for the lazy weekend is a volume from the extensive Big Nate series of comic strip compilations. Ben and I discuss why Big Nate is such a hit with him, as well as with boys and girls in Grades 3 and 4. Continue reading

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

By Ben, 20 January 2019

“Only once a year, on his birthday, did Charlie Bucket ever get to taste a bit of chocolate.”

img_0269M: Do you like chocolate?
B: Yes, I love chocolate. Why do you ask?
M: Because I think it’s important to like the main food in a book if you’re reading about it.
B: But you’re not a big fan of chocolate?
M: That’s true. But I think I’d like to visit Mr Wonka’s chocolate factory even though I’m not a big chocolate fan. Wouldn’t you?
B: Yeah, I would love to.

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They didn’t teach THIS in worm school! by Simone Lia

By Ben, 14 December 2018

IMG_0757It’s about a worm called Marcus who meets a bird called Laurence, and Laurence wants to go to Kenya because he thinks he is a flamingo.  Laurence doesn’t know how to read a map but because Marcus wants to avoid getting eaten by Laurence, he lies and says he can read maps. If the worm didn’t say that, Laurence would think he was useless and might eat Marcus.   Continue reading

Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

By Ben, 8 October 2018

IMG_8491“Hector, Terrence, and Dee have always wondered about their school lunch lady. What does she do when she isn’t dishing out the daily special? Where does she live? Does she have a lot of cats at home?” – Narrator.

When I was a child back in the days when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I always wondered about the lunch uncles and aunties at my school. And about the janitor, and the gardener, and of course, those mysterious and terrifying figures of wisdom and authority – the Teachers. So I simply had to read Lunch Lady, a comic book series that is bright sunshine in colour and, despite the cafeteria uniform- wearing, kitchen utensil-wielding, older-lady main character, equally appealing to little girls and little boys.

Don’t just take my word for it. See what 8 year old Ben thinks.

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Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell

By Maureen Tai, 4 June 2018

IMG_3875“Ottoline had two collections that were all her own. One was her Odd Shoe collection, of which she was very proud.  Whenever Ottoline bought a pair of shoes, she would wear one and put the other in her collection.”

Ottoline is too young to accompany her remarkably prescient absentee parents on their world wanderings.  But she is not too young to spend her days by herself in an artifact-filled apartment in the company of a hairy Norwegian bog person called Mr. Munroe.  As outlandish as it sounds, Ottoline is an extremely relatable character.  Continue reading