Josephine, a little American girl who lives in the ‘burbs, imagines that her life would be oh so much better if it were spent à la française. One night, alone in her bed clutching her toy phone, she dreams of being transported to the land of her most fervent desire: Paris. She also acquires a glamorous maman and tolerable younger frère, who take her on the best tour of Paris any child or grown-up could, well, commander! There are trampolines in the Tuileries, oysters at a café, a tiny appartement elevator to squeeze into, and a view from the Tour Eiffel that we who read Bonjour Paris still pine for tous les jours. (All these French words are not in the book, but each page has a phrase or two with a lexicon at the back to Frenchify your little listener’s vocabulary un tout petit peu.)
Bref, Pamela Druckerman’s latest literary achievement, a charming children’s picture book, is a beautifully illustrated way (kudos to Benjamin Chaud) to share a Parisian odyssey with your nearest and dearest. Chez nous, that would be our grown up bébé who briefly worked at Lycée Française de New York as a lunch monitor to make sure every student took at least one bite of everything on his or her plate (yes, that French bit of parenting, described at length in Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé, is featured in Paris by Phone too.)
On a Saturday afternoon just before Valentine’s Day 2021, Fédération des Alliances Françaises USA’s president Linda Witt hosted a wonderful Zoom event with Druckerman, who read from her book and answered questions about la vie Parisienne for an expat American these days. She also addressed why she decided to write a children’s book after achieving significant recognition as a foreign correspondent, human-interest journalist and occasional TV show guest. The whole occasion was posted online so that now you can virtually attend this oral reading of Paris by Phone and listen to a lively Q and A.
During a subsequent Zoom call with the author, she noted that Josephine’s magical visit captures an idealized vision of Paris, which Druckerman feels is far more “dynamic” these days than 15 years ago when she moved there. But the author invented a picture-perfect Parisian day, sans rain, school or nasty “side-eyes” (well, there is one “cold French stare” from little brother Pierre before he settles into being a rather decent dude). “New Paris” maven Lindsey Tramuta may disapprove of these well-worn clichés. But – c’est la vie. The Paris of Josephine’s dreams is here to stay, at least in this sweetheart of a book and in our hopes of returning there by Valentine’s Day next year.
To find out more about Pamela Druckerman and her other books Lust in Translation (2007), Bringing Up Bébé (published in the UK as French Children Don’t Throw Food (2012), Bébé Day by Day (2013), and There Are No Grown-Ups (2018), please visit her website.
Also look for free Zoom interviews conducted by Pamela Druckerman and her husband journalist Simon Kuper through their new venture Pandemonium U online here.
Purchase Bébé Américaine Goes to Paris on Amazon here.
Lead photo credit : Paris by Phone book cover. Photo credit © Pamela Druckerman