Babar’s Guide to Paris

Jean de Brunhoff produced seven picturebooks featuring Babar the Elephant, his wife Celeste and their family. His son, Laurent, also an artist, continued his father’s work with further Babar titles. The first Babar story appeared in 1931, and whether produced by Jean or Laurent, each has a flavour of that time permeated with a certain French essence.

It seems fitting, therefore, that the family of these very much humanized elephants visit Paris in this new offering, which is one of a travel series for young readers. It retains all the characteristic flavours of the original series, from Babar’s instantly recognisable green suit and yellow crown to the prosaic language.

This is not one of those travel books that lavishes excessive adjectives on every place visited. It is matter-of-fact, and indeed old-fashioned in places, and Babar has always been somewhat recherché. Some of the advice may be aimed at the parents of young visitors: for example, standing at the bar in a café costs less, and the rather adult list of restaurants recommended by Babar.

As we would expect, the images are large and clear and might make good talking-points in a classroom setting. On the whole, this is likely to appeal to grand-parents – even great-grandparents – who enjoyed Babar with their children. And one of the joys of Paris is that much of it doesn’t change. And not one mention of Disney Land either.