Saturday, October 15, 2022

Classic Rereads: Nicholas on vacation by Rene Goscinny, illustrated by Sempe

Goscinny, of Asterix fame, wrote a series of books about a boy called Nicholas. There's no definitive plot, just vignettes. Hilarious vignettes. Squirt milk out your nose and laugh until your stomach aches vignettes.

Nicholas is supremely unconscious of the world around him - and lives comfortably amid the mayhem he creates, while his parents, his teachers, and adults in general collapse in exhaustion and frustration around him. This is my favorite collection of Nicholas stories, featuring Nicholas' version of a family holiday on the beach and summer camp with his friends. Nicholas has a great time - it's too bad all the adults seem to be tired all the time....

Sempe's illustrations are quick, comic sketches that capture the hilarity of Nicholas and friends, their childhood squabbles, and the exasperated reactions of adults all with a few quick lines.

This series is apparently very popular in France and is used in language classes. Sempe is a well-known comic artist there (along the lines of Charles Schulz I think).

Who will read this? I've never been successful in getting kids interested in this series, although what I think of as a contemporary comic version, Toto Trouble by Thierry Coppee, was briefly quite popular in my library (I imagine the sudden drop in popularity was due to parents reading it. The first book is called "Back to Crass" for a reason). It requires a more sophisticated sense of humor and is really aimed at adults.

Bring it back? Alas, I think the only market is really adults, especially those who wax nostalgic over the humor of series like Crompton's William. However, Phaidon periodically reprints it so those of us who appreciate French comics and humor can enjoy.

Availability? Phaidon did a run of really nice hardcovers about 10 years ago that are now out of print. Used prices online range widely. Some paperbacks were republished in 2019 and there are now Kindle versions available.

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