Saturday, July 12, 2008

Nicholas the Charming

He is a little boy - one of the littlest ones in class. He gets into trouble often. His Dad gifts him a bike for coming in the top ten in a math test, although his Dad didn't know it was because "all the rest of the class was away with colds, and the eleventh was Mathew who always comes last anyway, but it didn't matter for him because he's got a bike already." When somebody is nice to him, he think he/she is "OK." He likes cowboy books and playing cowboys. He thinks girls are sappy and always crying. And to quote him on that: "Well, I suppose I sometimes cry myself, but only for something serious like when the living room vase got broken and Dad told me off and it wasn't fair because I didn't do it on purpose and anyway it was an ugly vase and I know Dad doesn't like me to play soccer in the house but it was raining outside." That's Nicholas!

I stumbled upon Le petit Nicolas as I was looking for a fun read to improve my French. This happens to be the first book in a fascinating series by René Goscinny, the author of Asterix, and illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé. While waiting to lay my hands on the French version (which is on its way from Amazon) I was blown away reading the translation Nicholas, which I picked up from the USC library. Arranged as a series of anecdotes narrated by little Nicholas, the book, with its delightfully simple language and some very humorous illustrations, is touching, funny, and marvellously visual.

But wait, there's more! I still haven't told you about the gang. There's Alec, "who is very fat and who is always eating." There's the bespectacled Cuthbert, "who is top of the class and teacher's pet." There's Eddie, "who is a very strong boy and he usually prefers punching people's noses." There's Geoffrey, whose "dad is very rich." There's Matthew, "who's bottom of the class." And there are many more. Want to know what happens when they all get together? Check this out!! Pandemonium. :-)

And to give due credit to Mr. Sempé for the amazing illustrations, here's a set of pictures I put together from the story in which Nicholas decided to get his Mom a bouquet for her birthday:

They call him "le petit Nicolas." I'd say he's "le Nicolas charmant." You'd probably agree! :-)


  1. Nicholas seems like the French version of Swamy :) Nice review!