Every year in late November, I pull out my box of Christmas books to read them with our younger children. It contains only those worthy books that have stood the test of time--stories with illustrations that are both beautiful and poetic. The magic of the stories is only heightened by the fact that they remain tucked away and inaccessible most of the year. This December, I will be adding Les Arbres de Noël to my box of timeless Christmas books.
It is a story about young Oscar [Monet?] and his carriage ride through a blizzard to see his grandparents on Christmas Eve. The French prose is poetic and simple. The writing is aimed at young readers, making it good reading for anyone studying French. The illustrations are spare yet engaging. They draw you into each scene--from the cozy fireside to a disorienting white-out in the blizzard. The illustrations are inspired by Claude Monet's paintings, particularly his winter scene "La Charette. Route sous la neige a Honfleur" ("The Cart. Road under snow in Honfleur").
Les Arbres de Noël is part of a series of excellent French children's books published by L'Elan Vert. Titled "Pont des Arts" (or "Bridges to Art"), the series aims at exposing readers to great works of art and artists through engaging stories inspired by specific masterpieces in architecture, painting and sculpture. Both story and illustration serve as the media through which an artist's work is displayed, with the final pages of each book often devoted to questions and answers on the artist.
I would highly recommend the series. Its books make learning French easy and fun AND they make great art so much more engaging and accessible for everyone.