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Review: A Giraffe goes to Paris-Paris with children

Review: A Giraffe goes to Paris-Paris with children

 What would you think a giraffe was if you’d never seen one before?  A camel?  A horse? A leopard with those spots? Based on a true story, A Giraffe Goes to Paris by Mary Tavener Holmes and John Harris, the Pasha of Egypt sends a gift to King Charles X of France in 1826.  No one in France had ever seen a giraffe before and no one knew what she was. The story is narrated by Atir, Belle’s attendant and he tells the story of Belle’s trip on the Nile with her entourage of three cows (for milk) and two antelopes (for company).  Fitting a giraffe on a wooden boat is a bit tricky.  It was too dangerous to keep her above on the deck and she was too tall to go below, so they cut a hole in the deck for her head to stick out and and provided her with an umbrella to keep the sun and rain off of her. When they arrived in Marseilles, people didn’t know what to think.  They had never seen such a creature before.   Lavish parties were thrown in Belle’s honor, new fashions were started, but they still had to get Belle to Paris so she could be given to the king and Paris was 500 miles further away.  Today you can fly or take the high speed train between Marseilles or even drive, but how would you get a giraffe there?  There were no carts big enough to get her there so they decided to walk the entire five hundred miles.  She of course needed the right clothes to protect her from the different climate.  The temperatures and climates in France are not the same as in Egypt! They set off for the walk to Paris with quite the entourage and crowds lining the roads to get a glimpse of the fabulous giraffe.  Inns hung out special signs welcoming Belle and they wound their way through Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Orange, Valence, and Lyons on their way to Paris.  After eight weeks, they finally arrived in Paris and were introduced to the King where Belle charmingly munched rose petals from his hand.  Belle was installed in  Le jardain des plantes  where she lived for the next eighteen...

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Review:Mirette on the High Wire-Paris with children

Review:Mirette on the High Wire-Paris with children

“One evening a tall sad-faced stranger arrived.  He told Madame Gâteau he was Bellini, a retired high-wire walker.”  Imagine if you were a child living in a boarding house and someone arrived introducing themselves as “a retired high-wire walker.” They would seem like the most interesting person in the world! The next day, as Mirette is doing the laundry, she sees him walking across the laundry line.  Mirette is enchanted and asks Bellini to please teach her how to walk the high-wire.  He refuses, so she tries to learn herself.  After a lot of falling, she is ready to show Bellini what she has accomplished and after watching her efforts, he agrees to teach her.  One evening,  Bellini’s presence is noticed by a theater agent and the stories of Bellini’s great feats come out.  But Bellini has stopped walking the high wire.  He is afraid. Not wanting to disappoint Mirette, he decides to try one more act across the Paris skyline and he arranges with the agent to have a performance.  Mirette hears the commotion on the street and goes out to see the cause of the hubbub.  “Bellini stepped out onto the wire and saluted the crowd.  He took a step and then froze…”  Mirette is determined to help him, but what will she do and will it be enough? My son loved  Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully and was very excited to read it again on several subsequent nights.  We loved the changing perspectives in the illustrations. You see Mirette trying to balance from the side, looking up from the ground as if you were in the audience, looking down at Bellini as if you were on the high wire.  You couldn’t help but feel part of the story.  If you have a child working on conquering a fear, this is a great story of perseverance and the frustration on Mirette’s face as she tries to learn to walk the high wire is very easy to relate to for anyone who has struggled to learn a new skill.  If you’d like to catch a traditional circus act while you’re in Paris, try the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione, a winter circus that has been performing since...

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Review: The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux- France

Review: The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux- France

Buried treasure, secret caves, -the perfect set up for an adventure during school holidays.   In this fictionalized retelling of the discovery of the Caves of Lascaux, Jaques, JoJo, and Simon are playing war games against the backdrop of World War II when an older boy, Marcel, tells them of a very deep hole his dog had fallen into the day before.  Marcel thinks it’s the entrance to a secret tunnel with treasure buried by one of the nobles in the region.  Who could resist a search for buried treasure?  Abandoning their games, they follow Marcel to where he thinks the tunnel begins. The entrance to the secret tunnel if big enough for a dog, but not for a person.  The boys take turns widening the hole until they can fit one by one.  Dropping down, they land in an entrance to a small tunnel and with the help of a few lanterns, start crawling along.  They’re sure this must be the entrance to the count’s tunnel, but when they get to the end they find not gold, but a large cave filled with wall paintings of animals that don’t live in the region any more.  After they climb out, they promise to keep the caves secret, but before too long all of the village children have found out about their discovery and they all want a chance to see it.  After some debate, the boys finally decide to tell their teacher about the discovery, but initially he doesn’t believe them and thinks they’re trying to play a trick on him.  When he sees the caves he cannot believe his eyes and tells the boys that France’s greatest expert on prehistoric art, the Abbot Henri Breuil, has fled occupied Paris and is staying nearby.   Abbot Breuil charges the boys with protection of the treasure and even in the midst of World War II, the discovery was reported in newspapers all over the world. Based on anecdotal accounts, The Secret Cave: Discovering Lascaux by Emily Arnold McCully captures your imagination and sense of adventure and makes history come to life.  What child hasn’t imagine making some sort of fabulous discovery?  The Caves of Lascaux are located in the Dordogne region in Southwestern...

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Review: Mice of Bistrot des Sept Frères-Paris with children

Review: Mice of Bistrot des Sept Frères-Paris with children

The best cooks use a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and sometimes there’s a secret ingredient.  In The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Frères by Marie Le Tourneau, Chef Marcel owns the best restaurant for mice cuisine in the Latin Quarter. He is helped by his children, but only he knows the secret ingredient for his award winning cheese soup! Every morning, Chef Marcel has his sons recite the recipe for the soup “butter, cheese, stock, cream, onion, pepper, thyme, and the secret ingredient.”  One day, he receives a telegram that the judge for the national cheese soup competition will arrive in one hour to judge his soup.  They know the recipe, but Chef Marcel is out of the secret ingredient!  Quel horreur!  Quickly he rushes out and as his sons bumble around the kitchen, his daughter, Petite Michelle continues to go around her duties calmly (and while dancing).  The seven sons put together the recipe while waiting for their father to return, but five minutes before the judge is to arrive, he still has not come back from the market.  As the seven sons run around like mad men, Petite Michelle calmly adds “a dash of salt…a bit of rosemary, and six drops of hot pepper sauce- and with a grand jete, she pronounces the soup ready! The judge enters the Bistrot, each of the seven sons performs his task-the three sous chefs add the final touches to the soup, the pâtissier puts bread on the table, the two serveurs put the napkins on the table, the sommelier pours the cider and just as the Judge swallows a mouthful, in rushes Chef Marcel trying to stop the Judge from trying the soup, but the Judge cuts him off.  Judge Le Whisk has to know what’s in the soup and Chef Marcel isn’t sure.  He asks his sons and they repeat the recipe and stop with “and…” And everyone  pauses.  What will they say?  Will the Judge like the soup?  What does he think of Petite Michelle’s changes to the recipes? The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Frères is an endearing story with great illustrations and a smattering of French phrases.  Like many books set in France, it...

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Review: Henri’s Walk to Paris-Paris with children

Review: Henri’s Walk to Paris-Paris with children

How do you encourage your children to get excited about taking trips? You read to them and encourage them to dream about taking the trip!  In Henri’s Walk to Paris written by Leonore Klein and illustrated by Saul Bass, Henri is reading and dreaming about taking a trip to Paris.  Most of the story takes place in the wonderful minimalist illustrations and the graphics evoke Henri’s thoughts and feelings as much if not more than the words do. Henri is full of ideas of what Paris is like and how different it would be from where he lives.  The story opens with Henri reading about Paris and the entire opening page is filled with descriptions of Paris (and I mean that literally, the first page is a graphic of a pair of little hands and little feet holding onto a book and overlain with a continuous stream of words with some of them running off the page).  “Paris is wonderful Paris is springtime Paris is lovely Paris is Beautiful Paris is Fun Paris is Many People Paris is color….” “Henri does not live in Paris, but he wishes he did.”  I’m sure there is many a reader who shares that sentiment!  The story goes on to talk about Henri’s life, his house, his friends, his parents, the neighbors, and how everything in Paris is different.  Henri longs to see Paris. One day, he cannot wait any longer and he starts walking.  He will walk to Paris.  He has a plan, but like many small boys, after lunch he needs a nap.  However, he wants to make sure that he knows which way to go when he wakes up, so he puts a pencil down on the ground pointing in the direction he should walk.  A good plan, until a little bird comes along…Oddly enough, when Henri continues his walk, everything starts to look like Reboul where he lives, and everyone he knows is in Paris for the day just like him!  (This part made my boys giggle, they loved being in on the joke.)  He continues walking and comes to a little street just like his, and a little house, just like his, and as he tells his parents, he is...

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Review: Anatole-Paris with children

Review: Anatole-Paris with children

“In all France there was no happier, more contented mouse than Anatole.”  Anatole has his friends, his family, and his nightly foraging.  What more could a mouse ask for?  Then, one evening he overhears humans complaining about mice, “[t]hey are a disgrace to France…To be a mouse is to be a villain!”  He is absolutely distraught to learn that mice are unwanted; his pride is wounded and he is determined to redeem the reputation of mice, or at least salvage his honor!  He decides to find some way to give back for the food they take. The next night, he excuses himself from the daily foraging and stops at the Duval cheese factory.  Sliding under the door of the cheese-tasting room he sets to work.  He carefully tries each cheese and on each one he leaves a little note with suggestions for improvement. After all, who would know better than a mouse how a cheese should taste?  He has pre-typed signs that say things like “good, ‘specially good, not so good, and no good” and to each sign he adds a note -“needs more salt, “add more goat’s milk,” or “add some more orange peel.” Each cheese gets a sign, and with a feeling of satisfaction, he heads home. The next day, everyone at the factory is surprised by the signs, but, following the directions, they change the cheese recipes and soon business improves beyond their wildest imagination. But Anatole is a mystery to the factory.  Who is he? Mr. Duval desperately wants to find and reward the mysterious Anatole.  Will Mr. Duval find out that it’s a mouse leaving the note? What will he do?  You’ll have to read the rest of the story to find out and discover if Anatole’s identity remains a secret! Anatole written by Eve Titus with illustrations by Paul Galdone is such a great story and it’s one we’ve read over and over again.  If you’re planning a trip to France, it’s a perfect introduction to the idea that there are lots of cheeses out there (besides cheddar), with more than 500 recognized cheeses in France alone.  Anatole’s tasting adventures at the Duval factory would be a great idea for introducing your little one to...

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