American parents love educational toys and books for their preschool-age children, so I find it a little strange that the French have an entire category of children's books for which we don't have a word in English: l'imagier. Wikipedia.fr defines an imagier as "A collection of photographs or drawings featuring objects, animals, and individuals along with the word that characterizes them." Put simply, they're word books with corresponding images. For little language learners, imagiers are a fantastic visual resource.
My favorite imagier :
Mon Imagier de Tous Les Jours (Editions Milan, 2007.)
I found this imagier in French bookstore Decitre several years ago and was amazed by the beautiful layout and photos. There are six books in the Mon Imagier Photo series. (My one-year-old also enjoys looking through Mon Imagier des Animaux nearly everyday.) Mon Imagier de Tous Les Jours is my favorite for its variety of vocabulary and objects featured (animals, furniture, clothing, body parts, toys, food, vehicles, etc.). Beneath each photo is an informative sentence about the object.
Best feature: The large, laminated pages are made to withstand rough handling, but their thinness allows for over one hundred pages of well-organized images. And I really don't think any imagier could feature clearer photos.
Worth Knowing: Object names are written in script, so a young reader might have difficulty deciphering the labels. The sentences beneath each image, however, are printed in a very legible sans-serif font.
Another Impressive Imagier :
Le Grand Imagier (Gallimard, 2009.)
This imagier comes from the series Mes Premières Découvertes and contains over eight hundred illustrations on more than a hundred pages. The themes focus on home, school, town, the human body, meals, and nature.
Best feature: The illustrations are both endearing and realistic; the vocabulary ranges from basic to fairly advanced.
Worth Knowing: Though the book is recommended for ages 2 to 5, older children will enjoy searching for specific characters tucked away on certain pages. Labels are often featured in both print and script lettering.
By the way, in contrast to the American Amazon.com site, you will have more success finding and ordering French children's books through Amazon Canada or Amazon France. I generally order about a dozen books via Amazon France in the fall when the amount of books in stock is high and pricing is often lower than the rest of the year. Where do you buy your French children's books? Please share in a comment below!