Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reluctant Reader

This is the time of year for the first parents' evenings. One gathers in the classroom, maybe even sitting in one's child's chair, and listens to the teacher describing the programme for the year.

Every year, my fear is that there'll be a parent who starts asking questions and then can't shut up. For some reason, they feel obliged to respond to the teacher's answer, and then to the teacher's response to his/her response and so on. I've been close to banging my head on the desk with frustration before now. Instead I, and others, start making signs of impatience such as fidgeting, sighing, looking at one's watch, coughing and scraping the chair.

Happily, this year both meetings were over pretty quickly. Frankly, there's not that much to be said because if you want to know the programme you can just google it, so there's little point the teacher going into much detail. What is important to know is how often books have to be signed, whether there's going to be a school trip, how to get help if needed and whether the kids have started the year well. One hour max. Any more and it's because you've got parents with verbal diarrhea who can't shut up.

The meeting for my eldest finished after 40 minutes. I was most impressed. Obviously his form teacher is an efficient, organised woman who says what she has to say with a minimum of fuss so she can get home too. Great stuff. I asked her if there was a reading list of 'suitable' books kids of 13 should be reading for pleasure as well as being part of their literary education. She said she didn't have one but was sure the school librarian would, and I just have to send her a note.

I asked this question last year too and got nowhere. I'll be interested to see whether such a list is forthcoming this year. While UK newspapers are full of information on essential books and kids' classics, the French don't seem to do this. I wonder if it's a way the elite have of keeping the plebs down. If you need to ask, you're already a loser... I'm foreign though, so that doesn't count.

I was looking for some books for my eldest today on Amazon. It's his birthday soon and the idea is to get him some books as well as stuff he wants... So here is the list, including suggestions by my TWDB as well as those by

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

Dune, tomes 1&2 by Frank Herbert

L'or et la boue by Christophe Lambert

Un tirailleur en enfer by Yves Pinguilly (this one and the one above are stories about WWI)

La chartreuse de Parme by Stendhal (his chef d'oeuvre)

Viper au poing by Hervé Bazin, a largely autobiographical account of his traumatic childhood at the hands of his odious, cruel mother.

So there's a bit of everything there - family, war, fantasy, ripping yarn, love, history, philosophy. Quite a fab collection actually, and even though it's all in French, I might even read some of it myself.

Has anyone got any suggestions for French books that would appeal to a reluctant 13yr-old reader without being condescending, overtly pc or pandering to the 'right on' crowd? Let me know, answers on a postcard...


  1. Hi honey

    Try the first books of Alexandre Dujardin-

    That's how I got one of my relectants reading

    and also most of Leon Uris's and Robert Merle's books too...

    Learning a lot, and enjoyng it so much it's so exciting that u can't put it down.

  2. I recommend the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer - originally in English but translated in French. Story of a boy of 12 and his adventures - my son loved these books as he could relate to the hero.

  3. Thank you, ladies. I shall bear your recommendations in mind for next time.

  4. Hope it's not too late for you to see this: I've only just found you. Artemis Fowl is wonderful, my girls (15 and 12) love these - as do I. Also Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz about a teenage spy. Or Charlie Higson's take on James Bond as a schoolboy.

  5. Hello hausfrau and welcome to my blog! It's never too late as all comments pop up on my email so even a comment on a REAALLY old post would STILL come to my attention. IT is a wonderful thing.

    Thank you for your thoughts on books. Christmas is coming and my eldest will certainly get a couple of books round the tree.


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