Have you spent lockdown learning a new language?
No, me neither. With two small children and a full-on job, extending my linguistic skills has not been high on the agenda of late.
However, I’ve found a solution that will not only allow me to feel educationally enriched without any effort but smugly tick the homeschooling box too.
Monsieur Roscoe On Holiday – a colourful new bilingual picture book that helps budding young Francophiles learn their first few words of French.
It is the first solo project of award-winning illustrator Jim Field, whose work you will known well from the best-selling Oi Frog and Friends series of books and his equally successful collaborations with Rachel Bright, such as The Lion Inside.
He was inspired to create the character after living in Paris for five years with his French wife and their daughter. Jim was struck by how easily his daughter picked up two languages while he struggled with it, and decided to create an accessible picture book to bring the benefits of bilingualism to every child.
His intention is one I completely applaud. Languages open doors to opportunity, culturally enrich lives and increase our understanding of others. There is also strong evidence to show that while children raised bilingually initially lag with vocabulary acquisition, they quickly catch up and surpass their peers, going on to have enhanced educational abilities.
It is definitely a great regret that I cannot speak in another tongue, especially that of my home country, Wales. I studied it at school, along with French, but while I found the grammar aspect easy, I struggled with vocabulary – which those who know me might find hilarious given my ability to chat and my profession.
Thankfully attitudes to teaching languages to kids have taken a leap forward since my schooldays and many of my friends back in Wales send their children to Welsh-medium schools, while Baby Bookworm’s primary will have French firmly on the curriculum when he starts in September.
He already thinks he is fluent, despite only knowing “bonjour”, as he makes up “French words” when talking to my Paris-born friend and her bilingual three-year-old.
His natural curiosity to learn makes Monsieur Roscoe On Holiday an instant hit. Who would fail to be charmed by this bowler-hatted beagle in his shirt and tie? The smart dog brings Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther to mind, although I suspect only grandparents might get the reference.
The book itself is bursting with joie de vivre – it’s vibrant and the bold artwork has a vintage feel, with oversized pages packed with activity and things to discuss. Think Richard Scarry’s iconic Busytown books from the Sixties.
The French elements are easy to tackle, even for parents fearful of languages. There’s lots of simple, holiday-related phrases, covering everything from packing and travelling to activities and eating out.
And Monsieur Roscoe, accompanied by his goldfish Fry, have a trip we can only dream of right now – camping, skiing, boating on lakes and lazing on the beach.
The escapism is a delight and so too is the education-by-stealth. Bravo Monsieur Roscoe! And bravo Jim!
Monsieur Roscoe on Holiday by Jim Field. £12.99 (hardback), Hodder Children’s Books. Available from Amazon
To celebrate the publication of Monsieur Roscoe on Holiday, we have a free postcard making kit and colouring sheet featuring the character to download.