The stories were a part of my childhood (this is important to give you an idea of the time setting) and I own most of the books, but I have to admit I had completely forgotten what little anarchists Nicolas and his friends could be. They have words and they have fights, they let their fantasy run wild and they have fun, not always to their parents' and teachers' delight.
Sometimes they are sad, they are afraid, they are children and Nicolas is telling their story - like the time he went for a visit with his mother and had to play with Marie-Edwige, the daughter of the house.
When Marie-Edwige suggests to play nurse and wounded soldier, Nicolas tells her he prefers to play cards.
Marie-Edwige: Well, what can you play?
Nicolas: Old Maid?
Marie-Edwige: I know a much better one.
Nicolas as narrator: Marie-Edwige's game was very difficult. She was allowed to look into my cards and also swap for hers. I wasn't. Also the cards didn't have the same value as usual. She took the King from me with a Three.
Nicolas: But ...
Marie-Edwige: Something wrong?
Nicolas as narrator: And the winner could make a wish. I never won.
Tough break, Nicolas. I think there has been something not quite right about this game, or you wouldn't have ended up as Marie-Edwige's horse or her makeup manikin ...
Petit Nicolas, France, 2009
P.S. I read that Sempé who did the drawings to go with Goscinny's stories said he wanted to catch the childhood he would have liked to have for himself. No idea if it's true, but I wouldn't be surprised.
P.P.S. Not having access to the English version, this is a translation of my own from the German one.
Steiff in Bloom at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts
5 hours ago