Quill and Quire

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Pierre & Paul: Avalanche! 

by Caroline Adderson and Alice Carter (ill.)

“Paul and Pierre are great explorers” begins Caroline Adderson’s tale of friendship and imagination. “Ils sont aussi des amis. Friends and explorers.” Paul only speaks English and Pierre speaks French, but this doesn’t stop the two friends from dreaming up creative solutions to everyday challenges in this delightful bilingual picture book.

The story celebrates the interplay between languages as well as between the real world and the boys’ imaginary one. Simple phrases that alternate between French and English pair with Alice Carter’s rich visual storytelling – fanciful doodle drawings interspersed with full-colour illustrations – to offer kids a gentle introduction to reading in both languages. The visual clues and parallel narration are well pitched to help encourage young readers’ decoding skills.

When we first meet them, Pierre and Paul are pretending to climb the Himalayas (“Quelle grande montagne!”) – only to realize, a few pages in, that despite having remembered their bottes, eau, corde, and crème solaire, they forgot to bring snacks. And home they trudge. Paul doesn’t like salad, so Pierre suggests a sandwich. Before long, the two are compiling a towering culinary experiment with increasingly outlandish additions. But c’est trop gros, and the wobbly sandwich collapses in an avalanche: “Ham and fromage. Laitue et cucumber. Couscous and tomates. Cornflakes and confiture. They all spill across the counter.”

The sandwich ultimately becomes a salad, at which point a reluctant Paul realizes that explorers have to be brave and try things in the spirit of adventure. Readers will gain a light-hearted lesson in the value of teamwork, creativity, and a can-do spirit.

The seven-year-old French immersion student I shared this book with was delighted by the novelty of a story told equally in both languages, even though the French vocabulary was easy by Grade 2 standards. She also appreciated the recurring appearance of an intrepid yak in many of the illustrations.

While bilingual books offering direct translations have long been used as teaching aids, Adderson’s lively and humorous blending of French and English vocabulary offers a unique invitation to play in two languages – an exploration that young readers et ses parents should find hard to resist.