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Voyage en Asie: 5 French Tales for Children from Asia

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Kanzi Kamel found this witty
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What better way to learn a language than by reading exciting stories?

If your children are learning French and you’re looking for some reading material to encourage them, we have a great reading list with five French books to introduce your children to some of the wonderful fables of Asia. These books will take you and your children on a marvelous voyage through China, Japan and Vietnam.

Le Démon de la forêt

Our first book begins with Naïnaï, a lovely old lady who always wanted to have a child. One day, she finds a baby in the forest beside an egg-shaped stone. She names him Ran and brings him up as her own, but as he grows up Ran becomes a real force of nature, he eats twice as much as other children and is three times as strong! He frightens everyone! Both the children of the village and the creatures of the forest, even the bear runs away when he sees him.

Naïnaï goes to pray to Buddha on the full moon to ask for a friend for Ran, what she didn’t expect is that a demon with extraordinary powers would emerge. Now Ran isn’t alone, he’s finally found someone stronger than him! At night he meets up with the demon and has wonderful adventures, but all good times must come to an end. The demon warned Ran, he won’t be able to stay with him for long.

When the demon leaves, Ran is so hopeless that he loses his super strength. To console himself Ran begins to tell the children of the village of his adventures with the demon. A tale with a happy ending full of excitement, filled with charming watercolour illustrations done in a traditional Chinese style.

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Les Trois Grains de riz

Little sister Li has to go to the market to sell the precious grains of rice her parents collected.

On her way she makes friends with the wild duck, the panda and the monkey, as she generously shares some of her family’s precious rice with them.

However, the road to the market is long and on her way she comes across a terrible dragon who threatens to eat her up if she doesn’t give him all her rice. Li is terrified but stands up to the dragon, just in time for her new friends to come to the rescue!

The illustrations are bright pastel paintings with beautifully contrasting shadows. This is a story that shows that kindness is given back in kind and has great themes for children; Li’s generosity and courage, solidarity, and of course friendship.

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Nian le terrible ; La Légende du nouvel an chinois

A very long time ago at the bottom of the chinese seas lived a terrifying monster called Nian. Every year on the twelfth night of the twelfth moon he rose from the ocean waves and destroyed everything in his way.

Until one day, as the villagers were preparing to leave their village and hide in the mountains, an old man with a long with beard said to them “Let’s not run anymore, let’s protect our lands and fight this bloody monster!”.

Being tired of running away and seeing their land destroyed, all of the villagers come up with strategies to fight this monster and save their country. “Surely, like all animals, Nian must be afraid of loud noises” “ he must be afraid of fire” they said, “and he doesn't’ like the colour red!”.

This is why from then on, every year, on new year’s eve the people of China tie up red ribbons on the doors and windows of their houses and have marvelous celebrations. They let off the loudest fireworks in the hope that it will scare Nian, and they will be able to have a happy and peaceful new year.

This book is full of delicate illustrations in a traditional chinese style. The colours are beautiful and illustrator really took advantage of the book’s large pages.

A beautiful story about solidarity and courage that will teach your children about the origins of the Chinese new year and its traditions. 

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La Légende de Momotaro

This story begins in a river in the Okayama region in Japan where an old woman was washing her laundry.

On a perfectly ordinary morning an enormous plump pink peach, was brought up by the river right into her hands.

She brings the peach home to her husband and as he’s about to cut it open the peach splits in half on her table! At the centre of it is a miniscule little boy! They call him Momotaro “child of the peach”.

Momotaro grows up to have an incredible strength. He became so renowned that the lord of the region summons him to entrust him with a mission; to fight against the cruel demons on Demon Island and to bring back their treasure.

This story is in three parts, Momotaro’s birth and his peaceful life before he is given his mission, the voyage to the island and his fight against the demons.

Each illustration of landscape from the river to the cliffs and the forest is composed with great care and elegance, and gives a the book a great ambience. The last few pages of the book charmingly show the work involved in preparing artwork panels step by step.

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Le Lac né en une nuit ; Autres légendes du Vietnam

Our last book is a collection of short stories from Vietnam. Minh Tran Huy is well known in France for her novel The Princess and The Fisherman. As a child she read Vietnamese fables with wonder as she discovered stories from the country of her ancestors. This book is filled with charming princesses, rival brother, fairies, magical animals and good genies! These stories and legends all have two things in common, they all focus on celebrating the goodness of humankind and embodying the identity of Vietnam.

A lovely read that will teach your children about many customs, festivals, and traditions of Vietnam.

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Do you have a favourite French children’s books about Asia that you’d like to recommend? If you do leave us a comment below! Happy Exploring!

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

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Kanzi Kamel found this witty
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