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Exploring New York with French Children's Literature

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Have your children ever asked you why New York is called the Big Apple, or why all its taxis are yellow? Would you like your children to learn about New York while they read in French? Have we got a reading list for you!

One of the many advantages of your little ones learning another language is that it can also teach them about new places, and of course equip them with lots of facts they can show off during recess.

From the Statue of Liberty to Central Park and everything in between, this reading list will take you and your family through a French-speaking tour of New York and the many landmarks it is known across the world for.

Whether you want your family to learn about a new place or to learn about their own city, we have all the reading material you need for them to be fully prepared for a visit to New York City! 

Emma à New York

Our first book’s heroine is Emma. She’s an intrepid little sparrow who lives happily with her family at the heart of Central Park in New York. One day Emma talks to her uncle Bob who tells her about their French ancestry. She begins to dream of pastries, Paris and the Eiffel Tower, and suddenly decides to go on an adventure! Her long journey starts in her hometown, New York, where Emma takes us on an enchanted visit to the Big Apple through Broadway Avenue, Little Italy, the Flatiron building and Brooklyn Bridge.

The illustrations in this book are what really makes it stand out, a very original mixture of photos superimposed with drawings. They show us New York in winter, in the snow and the fog, where the hand drawn colourful details contrast beautifully with the black and white photos of New York.

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À New york, chez mamie

John is going to visit his grandmother, the only problem is he doesn’t like the city she’s living in, New York. It’s huge, it’s busy, it’s loud and it’s filled with too many people. He’s afraid of the hustle and bustle, and doesn’t think it’s a good city for a grandmother to be living in. His grandmother however is ready to show him all the wonderful things New York has to offer and all the reasons she loves it. She spends the night clicking her knitting needles together making him a red cape to help him explore the streets with her. The next morning, John walks proudly by his grandmother with this special red cape, blown away by all the Big Apple has to offer.

This book has simple and sparse text, yet manages to convey a lot of heart and emotion. The illustrations are vivid, but soft and fluid, full of motion and delight.

This is a great book to prepare children for a visit to a large city, encouraging them to overcome their fears (with the help of a red cape of course), and to look at life from different points of view. 

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La Véritable Histoire D'Artur, petit immigrand à New York

Between 1820 and 1914, 45 million Europeans left the Old Continent, many of them embarking for America. Artur is one of these immigrants. He’s from Ireland and his story begins as he steps off the boat in New York with his mother. His father is already there working in construction, building New York’s now famous subway system.

Artur soon makes a friend, Benito, an Italian immigrant who hangs out in the rougher areas of the city. The two get into lots of adventures.

The special Info pages throughout the book are a great source of facts on the birth of New York, like the history of immigrants in America, the Statue of Liberty, New York’s historical buildings, the gangs of New york and the important dates in the history of the Big Apple.

Viallet, the author, depicts a time when life was not so easy, but also where the American Dream was born. This book represents the New York of the early 1900s, the New York where the first skyscrapers were only being build, with its notorious gangs and where people rode the streets in carriages.

Aurélie Abolivier illustrations are charming and really immerse the reader in what early New York and its inhabitants were like. You can practically hear the boat horn and the commotion of its people.

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Un éléphant à New york

John is a little boy who doesn’t have many friends but loves to dream. One day, to his surprise, he finds an elephant in the courtyard of his apartment building! Looking at this elephant, John begins to dream of being a half-elephant superhero flying over the city. He runs to tell his parents what he’s found, but since John often tells them fantastic stories they don’t believe him... He decides that it’s tough for them, but he’s going to make friends with the elephant and together they’ll explore the streets of New York.

On their adventure they walk by the pizzeria, the bookshop, the sweet shop and the park. Weirdly enough, people don’t seem to pay any note to the fact that large elephant is around walking among them, sitting on a bench in the museum, hiding in the buildings.

Walking side by side, John and the elephant don’t need to speak to be comfortable together. With him John discovers the joys of true friendship and grows to become more comfortable with himself.

A somewhat melancholy story celebrating children’s imagination. Brightly illustrated in colouring pencil, this book is filled with minute details for its reader to discover. A beautiful way to discover New york.

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This Is New York

Originally published in English but translated into French, New York is part of Miroslav Sasek “This is...” series, first published to immense success at the beginning of the 60s. This series of books is a great way to make your children travel the most beautiful cities of the world.

The text is poetic, and the illustrations are lovely and bright, with a unique style, full of detail and humour.

In this book Sasek pictures the fabulous New York City he knew, the Staten Island Ferry, MacDougal Alley in Greenwich Village, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Harlem, Chinatown, Central Park and the Statue of Liberty. Along the gridded avenues, in the shade of the skyscrapers, you’ll discover New York’s artists, its squirrels, its bankers and its famous firefighters.

This book wonderfully illustrates the magic of New York in the 60s, it will make you and your family wish you had a time machine to visit the New York of that era.

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New-york des enfants

The last book on our list is interactive and filled with 64 pages of games that will teach your children many interesting facts about New York. The perfect book for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

To outsiders, arriving in New york can feel like arriving in a movie. The giant, skyscraping, magical, backdrops immediately fill you with wonder.

Led by three kids from New York, Mia, Taylor and Joshua, the reader is taken on a lightning tour of the city. You’ll go up 67 floors in less than a minute, speak english, learn to write chinese, watch a basketball match in the street, find out how the elevator came to be invented and, once more, learn why the taxis are yellow! From the Statue of Liberty to Harlem and Central Park you and your children will discover many things about New York City.

Do you have a favourite French book on New York that you’d like to recommend? If you do leave us a comment below! Happy Exploring!

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Writer and Translator from France living in Dublin. Dedicated foodie and Brunch queen obsessed with photographing her food.

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