Children’s Book Blog: Recommended read – The Good Little Devil and Other Tales by Pierre Gripari
Witches live in broom cupboards, fairies pop out of taps, shoes get married, potatoes befriend guitars, pigs eat stars and little devils make it to heaven in this collection of children’s stories set in and around Paris’s Rue Broca.
Who’s it for?
Readers of all ages who appreciate a good story and a kooky sense of humour.
Why should I read it?
We’re a bit rubbish at translating foreign books in this country, so it’s always nice when a gem from outside the UK does make it into English – this is one such gem. Fairytale archetypes like giants, witches and, of course, fairies are transplanted into the ‘modern’ world of 1960s Paris, where their presence seems to be accepted with little more than a Gallic shrug.
Indeed, the fact that the ordinary people in the stories seem to regard these fantastical beings as more of a day-to-day inconvenience rather than something marvellous is where much of the humour lies. Similarly, when mundane objects such as potatoes, shoes and dolls, come to life, they are usually treated with the same courtesy – or lack thereof – as your average human being.
Most of the stories in the collection – wittily illustrated by Spanish artist Puig Rosado – were originally dreamt up by the author for the local children in Paris’s 13th district. As a result, the tales have the feel of something that has been told out loud, and are all the more inviting for it. Adults may find the use of certain characters from the Christian pantheon a little uncomfortable in some of the stories, and the occasional, heavily veiled reference to rather grown-up activities may raise the odd eyebrow among us prudish Brits, but the fact is that these stories have entertained French children (and their parents) for the past four decades, and I have no doubt whatsoever that British children will love them too.
Best character: It’s difficult to choose, but I’m rather fond of the witch in the broom cupboard, even though she is a little bit evil.
Best line: ‘Have pity, madame! Don’t hurt me! I didn’t mean to offend you: I actually really like witches. Some of my best friends are witches!’
If I like this, what other books might I like?
Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson.
Rebecca Davies is a journalist and children’s author and completed her middle-grade novel, Shirley Smart and the Nix’s Curse earlier this year. You can read more of her children’s book blogs here
Follow Rebecca on Twitter @TheStoryMonsterTagged in: children's books, children's literature, Four Children and It, Jacqueline Wilson, Pierre Gripari, Puig Rosado, The Good Little Devil and Other Tales
Recent Posts on Arts
- Friday Book Design Blog: The Neapolitan Novels, by Elena Ferrante
- Friday Book Design Blog: Man Booker Prize Shortlist Special 2014
- Indian art auction gets Delhi's depressed elite to splash out and buy
- Friday Book Design Blog: Collector's Edition, by Stuart Tolley
- Interview with Maybeshewill: “We’re not relying on guitars as much as we used too”
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter