‘The best way to improve in a foreign language is to do a great deal of comprehensible, interesting reading. The case for self-selected reading for pleasure is overwhelming.’Dr. Beniko Mason
In Modern Foreign Languages, we have selected eight books to introduce you to the joy of reading in a foreign language. Research shows that reading for pleasure, as opposed to repetition, is the most effective way to memorise new vocabulary.
Reading in a foreign language also allows you to fully immerse yourself in a different mindset and explore different cultural perspectives. It shows you all the curious nuances of a language beyond what you are exposed to in the context of a lesson. Here is where you can pick up the colloquial expressions used by young people in a Spanish or French-speaking world.
These graphic novels are very accessible and simple to read without being too childish. They can be found in the MFL shelf in our amazing LRC. Please explore them, and do send us handwritten or emailed reviews (or email directly to LRC@georgegreens.com) for your fellow readers.
We also look forward to your own recommendations as we are on the hunt for more books in French and Spanish.
The MFL Department.
Genre: graphic comic.
Key Stage 3/4
Modernita by Raquel Córcoles
About the book: Modernita has been invited to a birthday party this weekend at her friend’s Vega. She has been asked to pick up all her other friends on her way to the party. Every time she stops at one of her friends’ house, Modernita notices that each of them is normal in a different way. Modernita eventually realises that without diversity, the world would be very boring.
Review: I have read this book with my daughters, and they loved it! Modernita is a girl who embodies the values that we promote in our society by appreciating diversity and challenging labels which limit one’s freedom and identity.
Positives: It is a light, engaging read. The language is easy to understand and includes the kind of vocabulary our students learn at Key Stage 3.
Negatives: Some characters are a bit cliché.
Key Stage 3/4
Alex Et Le Rêve De La New York Star by Jake Lamar
About the book: Alex is on holiday with his aunt in New York. His cousins are passionate about rap music, but Alex knows nothing about it. One day, Diandra, a very popular singer in the United States, disappears. What happened to Diandra? Alex will find himself involved in the investigations by chance while visiting the Big Apple.
Review: Alex et le Rêve de la New York Star is part of a series of books designed for French learners. It’s the captivating story of a boy who travels to New York and helps find a missing musician while taking you on a tour around New York across its beautiful landmarks. The youngsters’ journey will help Diandra reconcile with her grandmother. What I particularly liked was that some parts of the dialogues are written in English which allowed me to have a deeper understanding of what was going on in the story. I recommend it to any French beginner/lower intermediate learner of French.
Positives: I loved reading Alex et le rêve de la New York Star. It’s simple and quick to read.
Negatives: The illustrations are in black and white.
Genre: Graphic novel/Fantasy
Key Stage 3/4
Rating: ★★★★ ★
Las Estrellas by Jacques Goldstyn
About the book: Jacob wants to be an astronaut, but his father wants him to take over the family business when he is older. One day, in the park, he meets a girl named Aisha, who shares his love of the stars. Because he is Jewish and she is Muslim, their families do not approve of their relationship. This book proves that love can truly conquer all.
Review: everyone has a dream, but not everyone is lucky enough to have a family who support their dream, let alone a relationship which goes against all expectations. Las Estrellas is a book about ambition, happiness and peaceful rebellion in the name of love. The language is pretty simple. The vocabulary is familiar and the meaning of any uncommon word can be worked out with the help of the illustrations as well as the wider context. I recommend this book to anyone who loves to dream.
Positives: The language is very simple and very similar to what I have learnt in class.
Negatives: there really are none.
Genre: Drama/epistolary novel
Key Stage: 4/5 (please note the book is about a serious illness and explores bereavement).
Oscar et la Dame Rose by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt
About the book: Oscar, a ten-year-old boy with terminal cancer, lives in a children’s hospital with volunteer nurses called ‘Pink Ladies’ with Mamie-Rose being the oldest ‘Pink Lady’. She is retired but still actively volunteering with this group. After a failed bone marrow transplant, he thinks he is doomed. He talks about his future death to his family and staff. All turn a deaf ear to the word “death” with the exception of Mamie-Rose who tells him that he has 12 days left to live. The latter will be the most extraordinary days of his brief life.
Review: I love the character of Mamie-Rose who makes up a game to accompany Oscar in his last 12 days and encourages him to engage in a dialogue with God by writing letters to him. As you read about Oscar living his last days to the full, you can witness a passage from atheism to belief as well as from selfishness to altruism. This book is another exquisite example of French philosophy and reflection on the human condition.
Positives: it is written in such a beautiful, interesting and somewhat funny way that makes it a pleasure to read despite its sad story. I highly recommend it.
Negatives: I have read the book before and adored it but I wasn’t expecting this book to be so tiny.
Genre: YA graphic novel/protest
Key Stage: 4/5 (Please be aware this YA graphic novel contains multiple references to war and to radicalisation).
Yézidie by Ducoudray-Mini Ludvin Dupuis
Yezidie is part of a trilogy following a girl’s journey into the war against the Islamic State.
About the book: Set in present-day northern Iraq. Zere is a young girl who lives in a small Yezidi village where Muslims and Yezidis (an ancient religious minority group who are indigenous to Kurdistan) have always lived in respect. Her daily life revolves around her parents, her cousin, boys, and the knowledge that the Islamic State is not far away. One day, men from Daesh arrive and as soon as they get off their trucks, they threatened the Yezidis, leaving them with little choice but to convert to Islam, pay a tax or die. The payment of the tax was quickly chosen but it hid another price to pay for the persecuted minority: soon, girls would be taken from them destined to become slaves. Thus, began Zéré’s ordeal, from then on, she had only one goal: to escape the terrible fate that was being imposed on her.
Positives: this comic book makes us helpless witnesses to the horror that befalls young people overwhelmed by the wars raging in their land. This notion of powerlessness is reinforced by Mini Ludvin’s drawing style, which makes the story even more poignant: his manga-like characters have the traits of innocence.
Genre: graphic novel
Key Stage: 4/5 (please note it contains some refences to alcoholism)
Ladrona by Lucie Bryon
About the book: an upbeat, adorable and unapologetically love story between two girls with a soft and muted colour palette.
Ladronas (in English ‘Thieves’) is a charming story about high schoolers partying, falling in love and committing little acts of rebellion. The drawing style is incredibly appealing, with delightful acting and visual jokes that make this an absolute pleasure to read.
Positives: Though it targets a more mature audience of young readers, Ladronas is written in a simple to understand language with which is easy to engage.
Genre: graphic novel/historical novel
Key Stage: 4/5
La Verdadera Historia de Nellie Bly by Lucia Cimino and Sergio Algozzino
A graphic novel that tells the true story of Nellie Bly, a woman who has become an icon, read through the comparison with a young woman who wants to pursue the same career.
Here Nellie Bly, through memories, recalls her professional adventures: from when she feigned madness and had herself interned to carry out an investigation into a mental hospital, to going around the world in 72 days alone, something unthinkable for a woman of that era. Bly was one of the few journalists who interviewed Belva Ann Lockwood, the first female candidate in the presidential elections in 1884. It was in those years that the first advertising campaigns were born and many of these featured Nellie’s face.
Already in its first reprint, the book has become a success story also on an international level, thanks to the sale of publishing rights to many of the most important markets: including the United States and France.
Positives: Inspirational and adventurous.
Key Stage: 4/5
Arsène Lupin. Gentleman-Cambrioleur by Takashi Morita
About the book: Arsène Lupin is a witty, confident man and burglar. The poor and innocent have nothing to fear from him; often they profit from his spontaneous generosity. Arsène Lupin is a fictional gentleman thief and master of disguise created in 1905 by French writer Maurice Leblanc. The character was first introduced in a series of short stories serialized in the magazine Je sais tout. In his Manga adaptation, Takashi Morita, will take us across the streets and the roofs of Paris as we follow Lupin in his fascinating adventures.
Positives: this book has an amazing collection of distinct and wonderfully-crafted adventures and is perfect for pretty much anyone.
Lupin series on Netflix now inspires us to read this book. Excellent 👌