Library Visits in France & the Children's Books We Loved There

Bonjour! The rain is pouring down, but spring is whispering from around the corner here in Oregon--there are little purple crocuses blooming in our front yard and yellow forsythia blossoms beckoning from the backyard. Nonetheless, today I'm taking you back to our summer travels in France to share about the library books my children enjoyed during our stay there. (I'll link to them on Amazon so you can obtain them if you're in the U.S. or Canada.) We visited libraries everywhere we traveled in France, and we were thrilled to obtain a library card in Lyon during the last two months of our France stay. (I simply needed to sign a form swearing to our address in France, however temporary it was.)

  The children's reading area at Bibliothèque La Duchère, Lyon

The children's reading area at Bibliothèque La Duchère, Lyon

I had hoped we could attend a few library storytimes (l'heure du conte) during our stay, but in contrast to the American libraries' elaborate summer reading programs, French libraries use summertime as a reason to scale back their hours and pause their usual storytimes. I should have guessed, knowing about France in August!


In Paris I had hoped we could visit the Bibliothèque nationale de France (the monolithic structure of towers in the 13ème), but we were just too busy visiting parks and museums. However, my daughter and I stopped by a neighborhood library in the Marais, and I was happy to see a flyer for Storyplayr, which has allowed us to enjoy audio versions of French children's books wherever we go. At this library, we re-read some favorite books including Philippe Corentin's Plouf (in which a plotting wolf and a well pulley add up to lots of humor), Soledad Bravi's Livre des bruits (illustrating sound effects in French), and Mario Ramos' C'est moi le plus fort (in which the prideful wolf gets his due).

  Espace jeunesse  (children's section)  in Paris 4ème

Espace jeunesse (children's section) in Paris 4ème


In Bretagne we marveled at this creative bibliothèque ambulante (traveling library), transported by bike and providing multiple hammocks for the ultimate in reading comfort.

  la bibliothèque ambulante in France

la bibliothèque ambulante in France

  My daughter enjoying the traveling library's hammock

My daughter enjoying the traveling library's hammock

  My youngest son enjoying a library in Bretagne

My youngest son enjoying a library in Bretagne

The library we visited in Bretagne had a darling little room for babies and toddlers, and my seven-month-old son enjoyed the opportunity to crinkle a few cloth books there.

My daughter and I read some books from the wonderful non-fiction series Mes p'tits docs, including Maisons du monde (that's an Amazon Canada link), and later on in our stay, I found her a sticker book at Fnac based on the same book.

  My daughter enjoying  Boule and Bill  comics in the Paris Airbnb apartment we rented

My daughter enjoying Boule and Bill comics in the Paris Airbnb apartment we rented


We visited three different libraries in Lyon--the summer hours were extremely limited at each branch, so it was often best to trek across town via public transport to return books to the branch that happened to be open. (Books need to be returned in person and examined by an employee while you wait--no drop boxes exist like in the U.S.!) 

  While my husband prepared for his World Masters Track and Field competition at La Duchère, my children and I soaked up the books (and a rare touch of air conditioning) at the Bibliothèque La Duchère, which had an amazing children's section. Here are some of the books that delighted us there:

Dans la serre je serre un cerf by Soledad Bravi- delightful word play with homonyms!

le Zizi des mots by Elizabeth Brami- more fun with homonyms

Maisons: Mon imagier photo découverte - A vivid look at animals' amazing natural homes

And while this post is growing long (but don't you adore French children's books?!), the books we enjoyed borrowing from the library in Vieux Lyon still bring fond memories:

Succulentes sucreries: an imagier detailing the names of French candy and treats!

Quand j'étais grand - lots of amusing examples of the imparfait verb tense in the daydreams of a little red bear

L'ours Barnabé: a B.D. (bande dessinée) series perfect for beginning readers.

Dodo and Qui quoi qui are two books whose illustrations take full advantage of their vertical/horizontal orientation to entertain readers. Dorothée de Monfreid's Dodo (Shhh...I'm Sleeping) is an uproarously funny story of dogs trying to sleep in a dorm setting, and Olivier Tallec's Qui quoi qui (available in English as Who Done It?) entertains children as they search for the culprit on each page.

Do you visit libraries on your travels? Which book has your child been enjoying lately?