We have embarked, in our acquisitions of the past year or so, upon the easily underestimated powers of Americana graphics. Here we want to dip into inventory we’ve held and loved for years, graphics that likewise trade in discovery that carnally intensive lives, presented with wit and warmth, can open doors for us.
The texts of the French children’s books series, Pere Castor (Daddy Beaver), unearth charms that gain even more scope by comparison with the work of their more flashy cousins, within a seldom considered Franco-American constellation. The volume Quipic (the hedgehog–in French, herisson) begins with the roots and underground insects of a garden and then looks upward to surface and flying animals.
The narrator runs through an array of garden animals and then exclaims, “And I understand their (hedgehogs’) language… It’s a bit hard to grasp, but in letting it reach your heart you can come to understand it.” After this we see a family of hedgehogs and how one of them, Quipic, kills a snake, for which the gardeners are grateful. In a remarkably touching denouement, the narrator, an elderly lady, comes across Quipic near the end of his life, much slower than when we first met him and sleeping on a busy pathway. She lifts him lovingly, enduring the painful little nips he had given her all along, and puts him in a safe place to enjoy his sunbath.
“The coo coo flies under the branches. The coo coo flies under the thickets. The coo coo sings.”
The coo coo also invades the nests of other birds, and leaves the mother birds to feed its offspring. The caption here, reads, “He’s so big! And what an appetite!”
A boy who loves to make music on his recorder observes this other musician with fascination and affection. And that’s the heart of the wonderful little book, Coucou.
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