The books are early chapter books, perfect for my level of language study. Introduced in 1959, they’re collections of stories narrated by a schoolboy, the eponymous Nicolas, who’s a hoot, irrepressible. As I writer, I’m so impressed with the spot-on rendering of the child’s point of view. The first person narration never strays from a schoolboy’s vantage; run-on sentences mirror a child’s runaway thoughts and speech patterns, and Nicolas’s logic is drolly young and quirky. Before I left Montreal, I bought myself a stack of Le Petit Nicolas titles. Now, every night before I go to sleep, I read one of the stories.
Some of the vocabulary I've picked up from Nicolas: le terrain vague (the vacant lot where they play les cow-boys), le chouchou de la maîtresse (teacher's pet), un coup de poing sur le nez (a punch in the nose, what they would like to do to the teacher's pet, but he's wearing des lunettes). Even when I re-read these stories, I’m all smiles.