Since its original French publication in 1959, Le Petit Nicolas and its sequels have been classics, beloved by French children and translated into two dozen languages. Now, naughty Nicholas' humorous adventures are finally available in English in Nicholas, translated by prize-winning translator Anthea Bell.
An only child, Nicholas spends his school days causing trouble for his teacher and his principal and his leisure time antagonizing his parents and neighbors. Part of a gang of troublemakers, Nicholas plays hooky, smokes a cigar and conducts explosive science experiments. He and his friends always seem to get the better of the adults, at least in their own minds. Nicholas is written in a breezy, almost stream-of-consciousness style, using long, sometimes convoluted sentences and lots of exclamation points to underscore Nicholas' exuberance. His naivete as he narrates his own misadventures add to the book's humor. For example, the chapter I am Sick starts out: I felt fine yesterday; you can tell I did, because I ate a whole lot of caramels and candies and cakes and fries and ice cream, and then in the middle of the night, I can't think why, I was very sick, just like that. Both children and adults will enjoy Nicholas' escapades kids will simply laugh at Nicholas' naughty antics, while adults will chuckle at the author's tongue-in-cheek tone and the contrast between the reality of a situation and Nicholas' understanding of it. The 19 stories in this collection (each of which can be read on its own) make this a great choice fo reading aloud. Detailed, expressive drawings by New Yorker cartoonist Jean-Jacques SempÅ½ add to the charm.
Readers who care about such things can find commentaries on French culture, educational systems and family life in Nicholas. The nice thing about the book, though, is that it can be enjoyed on its own merits as a delightful collection of stories about a typically flawed little boy.