It is wonderful to see this classic of French children’s literature finally available in english translation. Nicholas has been entertaining French readers for generations, but until now English-speaking readers have never had the chance to share in the fun. Who is Nicholas and what has he to offer the modern child?
Nicholas is the result of the joint collaboration of René Goscinny (better known outside of France as the author of the Asterix books) and world-renowned illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé. He is a little French schoolboy who always tries to do the right thing but inevitably ends up making things worse, and despite his being over 45 years old, this incorrigible little scamp is endearing as ever. The 19 stories in this volume (a translation of the first collection about Nicholas, Le Petit Nicholas (1960)) are all related by Nicholas himself, and the breathless way in which the little rascal tells of his daring escapades simply sweeps the reader into the story.
Much of the humour lies in Nicholas’ inability to see the consequences of his actions, and the difference between Nicholas’ somewhat naïve perspective on events and the perspective of the adults in the book makes for extremely entertaining reading.
Sempé’s illustrations provide the perfect whimsical touch, and the city parks, apartments, street corners and schoolrooms in which Nicholas lives out his adventures are as timeless as the story itself.
Anthea Bell is no stranger to the field of translation, and Nicholas beautifully captures the spirit of the original French. While Bell has provided english equivalents for most of the French names, she has left in many of the French references (the boys sing La Marseillaise at school) so as not to lose the work’s French flavour. Age 8+.