Adèle & Simon by Barbara McClintock is an enjoyable traipse through Paris and a tale of the trials of having a younger brother. As the book opens, Adèle picks up her younger brother from school. In these days of helicopter parenting, it’s hard to imagine letting an older sibling walk a younger sibling home but I certainly hear reflections of Adèle’s exasperation and affection when watching my two boys interact. When she picks up Simon, he has all his things– “his hat and gloves and scarf and sweater, his coat and knapsack and books and crayons, and a drawing of a cat he’d made that morning.” As they walk home in a tour of Paris that children are sure to enjoy, Simon manages to lose, well, pretty much everything.
The pen and ink drawings of 19th century Paris include the missing items for you to find and views of Paris that still exist and can be found when you visit. The opening page starts with a view from the Pont-Neuf of the Samaritaine department store which is finally being restored. Simon loses the drawing of the cat at a market. While this particular market may no longer exist, street markets are prevalent in Paris and full of things for children to discover. Simon goes on to lose his books at the Jardin des Plantes, his scarf among the dinosaurs at the Museum National D’ Histoire Naturelle, his glove as they exit the Metro, his other glove at the Jardin du Luxembourg , his hat while watching a parade with the Musique de la Garde Republicaine (recordings can also be found on youtube and in itunes), his crayons while drawing in the Louvre, his knapsack having pastries at the Maison Cador (which unfortunately has closed, though there are many other patisseries to choose from), his coat in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, and his sweater at the Cour de Rohan before arriving safely home with an Adèle who is tired. “Tired of Simon losing things, tired of looking for the things Simon lost. Tired of looking for Simon.” As mama is asking where his things are, there is a knock on the door and all of Simon’s things are returned by a line of people from each of the locations they visited.
Adèle & Simon is a delightful tour of Paris. The end papers very helpfully contain a map identifying the locations where Simon loses his belongings and we had a lot fun finding the lost objects (can you figure out how many crayons Simon lost?) and even saw Miss Clavel and Madeline in the park. Just following Adèle and Simon would provide a view of some of the highlights of Paris, with architectural sights, art, dinosaurs, and plenty of gardens in which to roam.