'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 18 October 2010

Review: This is Paris

Let us take you to where it all began, with This is Paris...

If you have never seen a Sasek This is... book, prepare to fall in love. This is Paris is the first book in the series of glorious travelogue books that served as the inspiration for my own Riley book series. I am totally in love with these books, and let me tell you why.

Not only are the books visually beautiful, they really do take you on a journey. There may be no photos, but the drawings contained in This is Paris are so exquisitely detailed and luscious, you will feel the flaky pastry of the croissant in your hands and hear the buzz of the city all around you.

On creamy pages, we open with a cityscape of Paris with the looming Tour Eiffel and the Seine, stretching its arms around Ile de la Cité. Sasek begins by telling us there are 10 million people living there, that there is one big river, dozens of monuments, churches, museums... and thousands of cats.

And so we meet Kiki. And Joseph, a striped tabby, and Rita the grocer's cat, curled up on the window sill. But of course, there are people in Paris, too - there is the concierge sitting in the doorway of a house. There is the dame bringing home a baguette. There is the man drawing a picture of Nôtre Dame on the pavement... and then there is Nôtre Dame herself.

We also visit the bird market and on the way, we learn a little history about how Marie Antoinette and Danton were imprisoned in the Conceriegerie nearby. Then it's onto the Metro, a glimpse at a metro ticket, and a stroll along La Seine to see Pont Neuf.

What about a pleasure cruise on les bateaux mouches? Or a peruse amongst the arts and books on the embankment? And shall we post a letter in the box marked 'postes'?

Walking through This is Paris is like taking a Parisian stroll in real life, only all around you is the most divine cartoonish rendition, in a sensational, very retro style that made Sasek a household name, and on which many a modern day illustrative look has been modelled.

The text is simple, clean and informative, with a hint of mischeviousness that kids adore. But it is the detailed pictures in this large format book that truly capture the heart - not only for their beauty but for the extraordinary, everyday life detail that has been poured into them.

The men pushing cards in Les Halles, the young boy pushing his toy sailboat on the pond in Jardin du Luxembourg, the parking meters on the roads around Place de la Concorde (there is no such parking there now!).

This glimpse into a Paris past is just sheer joy, and will delight both adults and kids, without question. And at the very end of the book there is a small text update on how things have changed in Paris since 1959... both interesting and sad, in a way.

If you love Paris, this book is a must-own. If you love travel, this is a must-own. If you love stunning artwork, it's a must-own. If you just love books, it's a must-own... but a word of warning. Once you start with Sasek's This Is... series, you won't be able to stop.

Bon voyage!

Title: This is Paris
Author/Illustrator: M Sasek
Publisher: Universe Publishing, A$34.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1959/2004
Format: Hardcover with dustjacket
ISBN: 9780789310637
For ages: 6+
Type: Picture Book