Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Nicholas, by Rene Goscinny and Jean-Jacques Sempe

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

These twelve stories about the young French schoolboy Nicholas are funny, sweet and endearing.

This will make me sound terribly ignorant, but better to be out with it now: I didn't know anything about the Nicholas stories until we started up North Melbourne Books. As for the illustrator Jean- Jacques Sempe – Sempe who? After having stocked our shelves many times now with the Nicholas books and wondering what on earth they were all about, I am now a fan.

The blurb at the front of the book says they are huge in France, almost a national institution. This makes sense. All of the stories are short, about six or seven pages, with delightful illusrations by Jean-Jacques Sempe. Once you get into the rhythm of the stories (which takes no time at all), you find yourself becoming quickly enamoured of the characters and charmed by the funny and endearing situations.

This first volume has 12 stories in all. Nicholas is a young boy doing all of the typical things young boys do: trying to stay out of trouble, endeavouring to do well at school (but falling short) and generally aiming to obey his parents while trying to have as much fun as possible. Nicholas has a overweight friend Alec who is always eating, and other colourful characters from school make sure there is always plenty of comedy. The situations involving Nicholas' father and mother also bring many laughs.

Overall the effect is sweet and endearing. Nicholas is always enthusiastic (he confesses to using the word 'great' too many times) and cheerful. Even when he's getting into trouble, things have a way of working out in his favour and allowing him to learn a lesson at the same time.

This is the sort of book I'd easily recommend for young boys looking for something on the adventurous side, with good doses of humour thrown in. Nicholas is fun and enterprising and always up for an adventure – the perfect childhood friend.

Nicholas, by Goscinny and Sempe. Published by Phaidon. ISBN: 9780714861142 RRP: $14.95