Hardcover, 300 pages
Expected publication: October 21st 2014 by Pushkin Children’s Books
Pierre Gripari, the author of this collection of stories, was a French writer most prominent in the late 1970s. According to my not so trusty source, Wikipedia, Gripari was openly gay and his work had LGBT themes. He was a children’s writer comparable to Enid Blyton (in my opinion) though I’d say that Blyton was more famous due to the fact that English is more widely spoken than French.
The collection of stories I read by him, The Good Little Devil and Other Tales, is very much a product of its time. I did not encounter any LGBT themes in the stories I read but I did come across some less than appetizing themes and thoughts in some of the stories. As a modern reader, I have come to not just expect but demand a certain respect and open-mindedness in the books I read. It is easy to excuse the racist and sexist themes in some of the stories in the book as inevitable of the time it was first published in (1967) but I refuse to do so because I am a person of colour and this excuse is used too often.
Not all stories in the collections are like that though. Some stories such as “The Pair of Shoes” which tells about a pair of shoes that are in love with each other and make every effort to stay together no matter what their owners attempt are charming and display the sense of whimsy that made Gripari so beloved to his leaders.
Other stories though, such as “The Story of Lustucru,” upset me because the titular character is painted as a uncredited hero for slaying Arabs while in “The Giant Who Wore Red Socks,” the portrayal of Chinese language feels problematic to me. “The Fairy in the Tap” where the titular fairy speaks about wanting to find a wizard for a husband so she can “obey him” once again gave me pause.
While I am a strong proponent for the translation of books from other languages into English so that it is accessible more readily to English readers, I cannot in good conscience recommend this title. Perhaps if you are less sensitive about such issues as the ones mentioned above, you may enjoy this. The book has value in its expression of what French culture and sensibilities (as fiction tends to reflect) of the time must have been but as entertaining reading for modern readers? I’ll leave that decision up to you.