A Bilingual Pursuit of the Perfect Rabbit Food
Lapin is Hungry by Tania and Olivier Czajka
A très beau book arrived here on Monday and we have really enjoyed reading it all week and learning from it too. Lapin is Hungry is a delightful story about a little rabbit and his search for something delicious to eat. We meet Lapin’s friends and learn French words and phrases as we follow Lapin around a colourful Parisian garden.
Lapin hops energetically through the story, and it has a lovely, lively energy. There is a wonderful freshness to the book, just like the fruits and vegetables we see in Tania’s garden. Even the endpapers are beautiful and feature an illustrated glossary.
We meet Oiseau the bird, Ver the worm and Escargot the snail, as well as Tania, who narrates. A tiny bee follows Lapin and observes and reacts to all the action. As Lapin’s hunger grows, the grumbling of his stomach becomes louder and louder, much to the amusement of my children.
Lapin is Hungry is very interactive and a joy to read aloud. It’s full of sounds that appeal to the young, like the “glourb glourb” of Lapin’s empty tummy and the “croc croc” of Escargot munching on carrots. Children will enjoy repeating the French words and the new sounds these involve too.
We love when Lapin shouts, “j’ai veux une carrotte!” My five-year-old really surprised me this morning when asked what she would like for breakfast and she replied, “j’ai veux un toast!” She learned “j’ai veux” exclusively from Lapin. I’ve forgotten all my school-girl French and never spoke it at home before the book arrived (we later discovered toast is “pain grille” after googling).
Lapin is Hungry was written and illustrated by French siblings, Tania and Olivier Czajka. Tania is based in Scotland where she is a teaching artist and artistic director of Le Petit Monde puppet theatre. Le Petit Monde perform bilingual and accessible puppet shows in theatres, community venues, schools and nurseries.
Tania has gained a valuable insight into children from working as an early years’ practitioner and puppeteer, and this is evident in Lapin is Hungry. Although the book is educational, it never feels stilted or boring. The story flows easily and naturally, and it’s obvious that Tania has extensive experience of entertaining the very young.
Olivier is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator at Robbygraphics since 2011. He designed the visual identity of Le Petit Monde and is the co-creator of all the characters featured in their puppet shows and Lapin is Hungry.
Lapin and his friends originated as a Le Petit Monde puppet show that Tania has toured with for several years. The picture book was subsequently created to continue helping children and families engage with the French language. Despite being the result of a crowdfunding project, Lapin is Hungry is published to an incredibly high standard.
I would never have guessed Lapin is Hungry was self-published if I hadn’t already been aware of it. This is a top-quality production, printed on sturdy, matte paper, with absolutely fantastic illustrations. Nothing about this book gives the impression that it was not professionally made.
If, like me, you’re not sure how to pronounce some of the words, they’re listed inside the cover with their phonetic spellings. There’s also a free audio book read by Tania which you can access by scanning a QR code inside the cover and on the Le Petite Monde website.
We received fantastic activity packs along with the book. These included postcards, colouring sheets, a DIY cardboard puppet show, and lyrics of a song about Lapin to be sung to the tune of Frère Jacques.
There’s no minimum age to begin learning a language and studies suggest that bilingual children “may be better at focusing, have better cognitive control, and stronger social perception skills.” There’s also evidence to support that being bilingual could protect against Alzheimer’s disease, I might take up French again myself!
Because it’s a simple story with endearing characters and brightly-coloured, bold illustrations, Lapin is Hungry would be suitable for babies and toddlers. It’s also ideal for older children to introduce them to the French language or to supplement any learning they might already be doing.
Tania and Olivier intend this to be the first in a series that introduces further adventures and even more words and phrases in future. They hope to find a children’s publisher to collaborate with and make this possible. Interested publishers can contact Tania on firstname.lastname@example.org and get to know Lapin better on Le Petit Monde’s website. Personally, I would love to see more books about Lapin and think they would be an enormous success.
If you would like to gently introduce some French words and phrases at home, then this is perfect. But Lapin is Hungry is a charming picture book and a lovely story, regardless of whether you are interested in teaching or learning a new language. I really hope this gets picked up by a publisher and that more books are developed.