Family, Friends, and Français: Literacy – Recommended Reading

by Corey · 5 comments

Ma Maman by Debbie Bailey: A translated board book about what mothers do with their children–play music together, prepare dinner, get ready for bed. Notable for its photographs of real mothers and children together (affectionate, though now dated) and its easy availability in the US. See also Mon Papa.

Oh les amoureux ! by the proficient children’s author Edouard Manceau: Rather than showing how parents love their children, this book offers a child’s perspective on what two people who love each other do (like share washcloths, sleep in the same bed, and giggle all night long).

Parce que je t’aime by Pascal Teulade: A young elephant tries to explain why he loves his mother.

Petit Ours Brun aime sa maman by Danièle Bour: Petit Ours Brun is the popular “Little Brown Bear” from the magazines Popi and Pomme d’api who also appears in many children’s books. In this board book, his mother makes him laugh, takes care of his boo-boos, and holds his hand. It concludes, “Petit Ours Brun est bien content que cette maman soit sa maman.
See also Petit Ours Brun et les baisers (about when he’s willing to give his parents a kiss, like papa leaving for work, and when he isn’t) and Petit Ours Brun et son papa.

T’choupi aime maman by Thierry Courtin: From the series about T’choupi, an enthusiastic, lovable young penguin. A board book about T’choupi and his mother. See also T’choupi aime papa, T’choupi aime mamie (grandma), and T’choupi aime papi (grandpa).

Tous les câlins by Pierrick Bisinski: A nearly wordless board book about different kinds of hugs as demonstrated by animal parents and their children. For example, a large duck and a duckling leaning their heads together is a “câlin coin-coin” (a “quack-quack hug”). Charming! See also Tous les bisous (all the kisses), Toutes les mamans (all the mommies), and Tous les papas (all the daddies).

Tu peux compter sur ton papa by Mireille d’Allancé, who has written many picture books about everyday life for children: A sweet book where a father bear reassures his cub that no matter what happens to him–if the son falls off a bridge, is kidnapped, is attacked by monsters–his father will take care of him.

Books about siblings

Attendre un bébé by Nathalie Bélineau, Émilie Beaumont, and Sylvie Michelet: Part of the highly regarded nonfiction-for-young-readers series L’imagerie des tout-petits, this book tells the story of a mother’s pregnancy and delivery of her third child, accompanied by cute illustrations.

Bonjour Sacha by Marie-Louise Gay, a well-known Québecoise writer: The first book in a series about a brother and sister who get along well in which the fiercely independent little brother admits that he needs help getting dressed from his big sister, who manages to leave the house shoeless and still wearing her nightgown. Cute and funny.
See also Bonne nuit, Sacha, Stella, reine des neiges, Stella, fée des forêts, Stella, princesse de la nuit and Stella, étoile de la mer.

Boubou a un petit frère by Cyril Hahn: In this book from the series Boubou le petit Pygmée about a little African boy, Boubou must adapt to having a baby brother. Other books specifically about family and friends from this series include Boubou et grand-père (Boubou and grandfather) and Boubou est amoureux (Boubou is in love).

Caillou: La petite sœurby Joceline Sanschagrin and Hélène Desputeaux: From the series about the bald little boy Caillou who can be quite stubborn at times, like when his parents bring home a baby sister. See also Caillou s’occupe de sa petite soeur, in which he takes care of his little sister (no longer a baby) while their maman takes a nap.

J’attends un petit frère by Marianne Vilcoq: A sister does not like the idea of getting a baby brother; children can watch the baby grow in maman‘s belly by lifting flaps in the illustrations.
Another book about pregnancy with flaps to lift is Et après, il y aura (and afterward, there will be) by Jeanne Ashbé.
Yet another book with charming illustrations on this same subject is Il y a une maison dans ma maman (there is a house inside my mommy) by Gilles Andreae and Vanessa Cabban.

La petite soeur de Lisa by Anne Gutman: Part of the “Gaspard et Lisa” series about two friends. In this one, Lisa has trouble adjusting to having a pregnant mother (“Cela fait huit mois que maman a son gros ventre et c’est la catastrophe!”) and then becoming a big sister. Her suggestions for the baby’s name are “poubelle,” trashcan, and “poux,” lice. Ultimately, Lisa does develop interest in her little sister. This book is also notable for its Paris setting with many recognizable locales in the illustrations. See also Un cadeau pour maman, in which Gaspard and Lisa prepare Mother’s Day gifts.

T’choupi a une petite soeur by Thierry Courtin: From the series about T’choupi, an enthusiastic, loveable young penguin. In this story, he has a new little sister, but the focus is on how much his parents love him. See also T’choupi s’occupe bien de sa petite soeur (T’choupi takes good care of his little sister).

Books about friendship

Caillou a un ami invisible by Sarah-Margaret Johanson and Eric Sévigny: In this adventure, Caillou has fun with his imaginary friend. Other Caillou books about friendship include the four-page plastic bath book Bébé Caillou: Les amis and Caillou dort chez son ami (Caillou spends the night with a friend).

Émile et Lucette by Christelle Desmoinaux: A proud, gluttonous tomcat refuses to share the delicious food he finds for himself–until he meets a certain lady cat.They end up sharing walks, all their meals, the crate where they sleep–and soon have to share all their finds with their five little kittens!

Les bons amis by Paul François: On a snowy day, a hungry little rabbit finds two carrots, one to eat and one to share; the shared carrot is given from friend to friend until it returns at last to the home of the rabbit. Can be purchased with a recording of the story on CD.

Lily et Chloé: Le premier vol by Isabelle Gibert: From the collection “À deux, c’est mieux” (it’s better with two), this short book features an ant who wants to fly and whose attempts to do are spectacular failures until she enlists the help of her friend the ladybug, who carries her on her back and they fly together.

Petit Ours Brun se fait un copain by Danièle Bour: A very short book starring the popular “Little Brown Bear” from the children’s magazines Popi and Pomme d’api in which he makes a new friend at the lake when they share their toys. (See also Petit Ours Brun a plein d’amis, a coloring book with images of the bear and his friends.)

Roméo et Juliette by Mario Ramos: A pathologically shy elephant, whom everyone calls”Tomate” because of his propensity for blushing, meets a curious mouse with whom he can feel completely comfortable.

Sans toi by Geneviève Côté: The delightful story of two best friends, a rabbit and a pig, who decide to play separately when they get on each other’s nerves. Naturally, they quickly discover that it’s much more fun to share their toys and do activities together.

T’choupi ne veut pas prêter by Thierry Courtin: The beloved character T’choupi learns to share with his friend.

It is also worth noting that many children’s magazines in French frequently offer stories and poems about family and friendship. Pomme d’api, whose target audience is three-to-seven-year-olds, even recently featured a philosophical discussion about the nature of love where the characters discussed whether or not you can say “je t’aime” to your favorite cheese!

And finally, most fairy tales center on families and love–Hansel et Gretel, La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast), Cendrillon (Cinderella)–so any version of these stories, whether from a book or the storyteller’s memory, will allow you to share a tale that fits this theme.

Merci beaucoup to Les Petits Livres, an online book rental service specializing in French children’s books in the US, who loaned me a dozen books on this topic and recommended many others!


Still to come in this series: Literacy Activities (Part Four) and Tactile and Kinesthetic Activities (Part Five). Join us on this romp through the French family tree! A new article will appear on Multilingual Living every two weeks.

Need a refresher on expressions in French to describe friends, family members, and love? See our vocabulary round-up here in the introduction to this series.

Sarah Dodson-Knight has taught English in France and English composition, ESL, literature, and French in the US. She now coordinates year-round reading enrichment programs at the Lafayette Public Library (Colorado). You can find her at Bringing up Baby Bilingual where she writes about raising children with more than one language and records her efforts to teach French as a non-native speaker to her son (Griffin, age 2) and her nephew (Carl, age 4). On her blog, you will find profiles of bilingual and multilingual families, resource recommendations, book reviews, discussion prompts, descriptions of games and language learning activities, and stories about Griffin and Carl.

This website is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended as a replacement or substitute for any professional financial, medical, legal, or other advice. By using this website, you signify your agreement to all terms, conditions and notices contained or referenced in our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. If you do not agree with these terms and conditions, please do not use this website.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sarah @ Bringing up Baby Bilingual March 23, 2011 at 2:33 pm

If you have other suggestions of books that should be on this list, please leave a comment below! For example, a visitor to my blog recommended “Benjamin et le bebe” (a translation of one of Paulette Clark’s Franklin series) as a good treatment of the idea of getting a new sibling.

To see a more detailed description of a few of the books from this list, plus pictures of some of their pages, please visit this post from my blog about a French storytime I co-led on this topic:


2 Heather Lakhal March 29, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Wonderful and helpful list. But equally as important information is where these books can be found in the U.S. (no easy task here in Seattle). If you have any resources, will you please let me know?



3 Olivia April 3, 2011 at 7:15 pm or is always a good bet for these! Shipping is a bit pricey, but if you order several at once, it is worth it, and shipping is less from Canada.

You also might try the Alliance Française in Seattle. I believe they have a lending library that includes kids books.


4 Sarah @ Bringing up Baby Bilingual March 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Hi Heather,

Thanks for your comment and question! I wish I had an easy answer for you. I live in Colorado and have found children’s books in French in the following ways:

–library used book sales
–garage sales
–used book stores (some owners will make a note of what you’re interested in and let you know when they get books that match your interest)
–exhibit halls at conferences for foreign language teachers
–eBay (US and Canada sites)
– (as noted above, some are easily available in the US; Amazon’s algorithims will also suggest other children’s books in French that they carry)
–having friends/family buy books for me when they travel to Francophone countries
–purchasing from US vendors like World of Reading and Sosnowski Books
–befriending other French speakers whose children are older than mine and who are willing to pass their kids’ outgrown materials on to me!

And you can always purchase a subscription to Les Petits Livres to rent French children’s books by mail! Many of the books on my list are available from this company.

Bon courage!

Anyone else have suggestions of where to buy French books outside of Francophone countries?


5 Annie December 18, 2012 at 8:27 pm

I am trying to find a book that I read over and over as a child,. It was in English with introduction to many French words. The story line was about two little girls who met and became friends even though they spoke different languages. I specifically remember them having a picnic together. I believe one girls name was Lilli and the other girl may have been Vivienne (not sure). Any idea how I might behind to hunt for this book?
Thanks so much.
Annie in Montana


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: