Out next week from Pushkin Press is the first English edition of Riad Sattouf’s Esther’s Notebooks, the story of a girl growing up in Paris, whose slice-of-life tales have been a huge hit across the Channel, with over one million copies sold so far.
Every week, award-winning comic creator and film maker Riad Sattouf has a chat with his friend’s daughter, Esther. She tells him about her life, about school, her friends, her hopes, dreams and fears, and then he works it up into a comic strip, originally in the news magazine,L’Obs,, and collected into five bestselling books. It has also been made into an animated TV series.
The first book, sub-titled “Tales from my ten-year-old life”, consists of 52 of those strips, telling between them the story of a year in the life of this sharp, spirited and hilarious child. The result is a moving, insightful and utterly addictive glimpse into the real lives of children growing up in today’s world.
Translated by Sam Taylor, the second book is due for release in July, telling the story of Esther’s life as an 11-year-old, and the series will spans her teenage life up to age 18.
Sattouf, whose autobiographical graphic novel The Arab of the Future (“L’Arabe du futur”) was a Guardian book of the year, met the real Esther – whose identity is disguised to protect her anonymity – when his friends, her parents, brought her to dinner.
“She chattered the whole time telling stories about her school and friends and things that were happening to her,” Sattouf told The Guardian in a recent interview. “She was like a radio, talking away. It was enormously interesting to hear her talking about her life and I thought it would be amusing to do a book about her world.
“I’ve not met many children who speak that much to others,” the author, who grew up in Syria and Libya and now lives in Paris, continued. “They talk to their parents, but there she was talking away, describing her world with a large vocabulary.
“The first thing that struck me was the relationship between the boys and girls at that age. She started recounting all these stories about how boys behaved, boys who were considered handsome, those that should be kept away from … I thought, this is actually very funny.”
“Don’t be misled by what at first seems like naivety, even cuteness,” enthuses Rachel Cooke in a review of the series for The Observer. “These funny, well-observed comics are fantastically daring. They have so much to say about the experience of being a girl in a European city in the 21st century – and if not all of this makes for comfortable reading, it’s also what makes them indispensable.
• Esther’s Notebooks 1 – Tales from my ten-year-old life (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)
Published: 4th April 2021
• Esther’s Notebooks 2 – Tales from my eleven-year-old life (AmazonUK Affiliate Link)
Published: 29th July 2021