The author of La Petite Josette En Provence is Ashley Davidson-Fisher. We follow each other on Twitter and I've enjoyed her photos of Provence (and this summer, Norway) for quite a while now. She's lived in Provence, off and on, with her family for many years and still does. She asked me if I would read and review her new children's book, La Petite Josette En Provence, which has been illustrated by her daughter, Martinique Louise Fisher, and naturally I was very pleased to do so.
La Petite Josette (little Josette) is incredibly excited. Her parents are taking her and her older sister, Anne-Laure, out for the day to visit the hill-top village of Les Baux-de-Provence. She's so excited that when her sister comes to collect her she's already dressed under the bedclothes! The girls help their parents get the picnic ready and load the car and they're off.
After a longish journey they arrive here:
This is Les Baux-de-Provence, (pic from TripAdvisor) which as you can see, is rather spectacular; it has a medieval castle, a very ancient history, and by the sound of it, lovely shops and cafés. I gather it's been named one of the most beautiful villages in France. Anyway the family set about exploring the castle, enjoying a picnic, buying souvenirs and having a reviving drink. In other words a really lovely day out.
This children's book is pure charm. Ashley's beautifully written story is also superbly illustrated by Martinique Louise Fisher. To be honest, the illustrations are a real feature of the book, I sat looking at them for ages. Her website is here if anyone is interested in seeing her work. The paintings in this book made me wish adult books came with pictures like this! How nice to see exactly what the storyteller has in mind.
But not only is the book charming it's also educational. I did French at school and although I haven't kept it up the knowledge is still part of me and I didn't have too much trouble understanding the French. What I didn't know was explained in the story so I feel like I learnt quite a bit. For instance, we're all familiar with the French 's'il vous plait' for 'please'. I've always wondered what families say for this because they wouldn't use 'vous' they'd use the more personal 'tu'. Apparently families say, 's'il te plait'. So now I know. A simple thing but it pleases me. I learnt that sausages are 'des saucisses', peanuts are 'cacahvétes', fab word but my keyboard won't do the accent the other way round, and yoghurt is 'yaourt'.
I think this would be an excellent book for children just starting to learn French or perhaps with a little experience of the language. (My grandson has just started in fact, he did a little at primary school but has started in earnest at comprehensive and loves it.) French makes up a small percentage of the story and there are clear explanations in dialogue for all of the French terms.
I really really hope that Ashley and Martinique are thinking of doing more books about 'La Petite'. I think it would be a gorgeous way to introduce children to the language but also to the beauty and culture of La belle France. And not just children... aged grandmas with a thing about European geography too.