My eldest daughter, L., has followed in her parents’ footsteps as a serious bookworm, and I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy seeing her read books that I loved as a child.
Because we’re a bilingual family, L. has had a similar experience reading books in French that her father read as a child, many of which I wasn’t familiar with or which are French translations of English books. There are two popular children’s “libraries” (in this case, collections of books) which are found throughout France and which date back to the 1850’s (for the Pink Library) and the 1920’s (for the Green Library).
The Pink Library (La Bibliothèque Rose) includes “humerous, emotional, and magical” stories, and some of the classic titles in this collection include books by the Comtesse de Ségur and various series, including Fântomette, the Black Stallion, and the Club des Cinq–otherwise known as The Famous Five–by Enid Blyton. The Green Library (La Bibliothèque Verte) includes “action and adventure” novels, the most popular of which is the Alice series, aka Nancy Drew.
At first I didn’t like the idea of L. reading translated versions of English books, but you find them everywhere here and they are hugely popular. Personally, I never read Blyton as a child, but you’d be hard pressed to find a French person who didn’t. I hope she’ll decide to read the Nancy Drew books in English one day, but it’s nice that she’s able to experience the versions her father read, too.
So if you’re ever in France and get a chance to browse the stalls of a bouquiniste, keep your eye out for the Pink and Green Libraries. Because they’ve been around for so many years, it’s still easy to find beautiful vintage copies of some of the classics of French childhood.