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8 French Children's Books to Discover La Réunion Island and Beyond

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Bruno Gaba was born in the center of France in 1963 and was lucky enough to move to the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean with his parents at age 7. When he was 16 he began to play bass guitar with a band heavily influenced by Creole music from the island such as Séga and Maloya. He spent some time in the Vendée region of France before returning to the Réunion in 2005. 

In 2009 he founded a kindergarten there called Zébulo with his partner Nathalie Dromson. The name Zébulo combines the words for the zébu cow, bubbles, and water, the source of life. They wanted Zébulo to be a place where young children could experience an artistic and cultural awakening and they began to think about publishing children's books. 

In January 2012,  Zébulo published its first book and CD, Le Bal des animaux. They began to create books, with Nathalie Dromson focusing on early childhood and Bruno Gaba on music. Zébulo editions then expanded to include new authors and a wider readership. Their books are an ode to the Réunion island.


Banner image from Dans les hauts, illustration by Moniri M'Baé

La Balade de Little Momo

This accordion-style format in cardboard is for young children, and can stand up around the child like a little house with windows. But once unfolded, it can be and used as a decorative item as well. Moniri M'Baé's beautiful drawings depict the island's nature which he draws in color, while his characters are depicted in black and white. Little Momo takes a walk around the island accompanied by animals. For children ages 12 months and up.

Où le vent te mène

A long time ago, somewhere far north, is a village in the midst of a harsh winter. There is no room for dreaming here, life is tough and dangerous. But a dreamer lives in the village, a little boy called Sol. One morning he finds a strange egg that has been abandoned. From this egg hatches a bird who will become his best friend. Sol and the bird, Diomède, are outsiders, who decide to brave the unknown to travel to new lands. 

Le Bal des animaux

Le Bal des animaux is a book  and CD that includes eleven songs written and composed by Alain Rosenfeld, Illustrations are by Moniri M'Bae. Each song recounts an animal from the Réunion in language that is  easily to understand. The styles of music vary from bossa nova, java, tango, lullaby, to rock. For ages 18 months+.

Séga

A family of fishermen play séga instruments (guitar, bass, accordion, drums and vocals) inspired by G.Fourcade's  text, "My fishing husband".  Illustrations are by Moniri M'Baé.

Maloya

Maloya is a book on the musical heritage of the Réunion. Each double spread allows children a button to press on that allows them to hear the sound of the instrument. The instruments are all depicted together in the last pages, while members of one family play Maloya instruments and sing: Roulèr, kayamb, pikèr, and the bob. Ages 0-5.

Salegy

This book features the salegy instruments from the neighboring island of Madagascar. Children can discover these instruments used to play an extract of a traditional Malgasy song, "Voasary lalao". A bilingual book in French and Malgasy for all ages.

Les Zazous dans la nature - Ile de la Réunion

If you go to latitude  21.069423 and longitude 55.402366 and you'll travel from Maïdo to roche Plate, in the heart of Mafate. It's an adventure of creative discovery searching for images of "zazous" that are literally part of the landscape. All ages.

Des abeilles et des hommes

Albert is a young boy passionate about bees who will convince his uncle Louis that the secret of love lies in the intimate relationship between the flower and the bee. Youna, who lives on flower island, just across the way grows a rare variety of orchid called Venus' Clog...In comic book form this book is for all ages.

The original article in French can be read here.

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Isabelle translates and edits articles into English from other languages on the Bookwitty site. She always adds a hyperlink to the original article in her post.

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