Alain Grée’s glorious books

We discovered French illustrator, Alain Grée‘s, books in the library a couple of months ago and I had one of those amazing moments when you chance upon a book by accident that you know you are going to love FOREVER.  The gorgeous retro feel of his illustrations makes me feel as though these books have actually been snaffled from my own haul of loft treasures and I’ve read them so many times that I actually sort of feel like I’ve known them since my own childhood anyway.

I’ve become even more attached to the books since H said one of his first (and thus far, only) words while reading the book about nature.  Despite being over two years old now, he doesn’t get much of a chance to chat as C provides a pretty much non-stop running commentary on everything from the moment he wakes up to the moment he falls asleep, but even without that I think he’s someone who likes to observe for a while before joining in.  Plus, he’s REALLY stubborn and I think there’s a strong chance he knows we’d like him to talk a little, so he’s deliberately avoiding it 😉

Anyhoo, during our reading of this book (punctuated by a lot of oooohs and ahhhhs of delight from me) he just pointed at the deer and said ‘deer’.  He was three months old and asleep at the only point in real life that we’ve come close to a deer and we haven’t read that many stories that feature them, but for some reason he chose that word to share with us.

After that, I simply had to get hold of some of the other titles in the series (published by Button Books) and although we’ve not had much more in the way of additional words being spoken, we have had a LOT of fun looking through these wonderful books.  Though they could easily be used as very stylish vocab books (in particular, ‘Alphabet’), they are actually so much more than that and we’ve had hours of fun already just poring over selected spreads.  In order to share the love, we’ve chosen a few of our favourites for you to enjoy.


IMG_5567This book actually taught me something about how a car works and the boys definitely appreciated a chance to see the more technical side of the featured vehicles.  Whilst it’s all very child-friendly, there is a lot more detail here than I’ve seen in any of the other transport-related books that we’ve read (actually quite a large sample).


IMG_5565Obviously I had to feature the page with the famous deer, though it was quite tough to choose between all the beautiful spreads contained within this book (and there are even owls – YAYYYYY!).  As with ‘Transport’, there are a lot of extras, including some great snippets of information about farms, seasides, woodlands, etc., along with questions posed to the reader related to the pictures.


IMG_5569It seems unfair to label this book as ‘just’ lists of words, even though technically that it what it contains.  However, there are a variety of words for each letter and, of course, they are all beautifully illustrated.  C and H insisted that I included their namesake letters as examples:


IMG_5570Each spread is called out to me to play Granny’s game of making up a story based around three random objects and I can’t wait to try that out with the boys.  I’ll have to pick my moment though, as currently they just adore poring over each page and soaking in the loveliness!

These are books that can – and should – be used daily and they even have wall posters on the inside of the dust jackets, but they are also calling out to be treasured (in the loft, perhaps?!) and passed on to children and grandchildren in the future.  Truly treat-worthy texts 🙂


Disclaimer: I received my copies of these books from the publisher. I was not asked to write this post, nor was I given any money for doing so, and the review represents my own honest opinion.


  1. Gree’s illustrations are very stylish I can’t deny that, but when I looked at them in detail (in the magazine PLOC), I was rather disappointed by how gendered everything was – it was like something from 50 years ago in terms of gender roles. Perhaps that’s not surprising given his vintage style, but I was still disppointed by that. Still, I know others who think Gree is absolutely wonderful, and I can’t deny that based on your photos his work is stylish.

    1. Really funny you should say that, Zoe – I looked long and hard through the books to find a picture of a woman driving a car or a man cooking, for example, to use as my photos for the post and couldn’t find one.
      As you say, it’s disappointing that this is is the case but with the boys I’ve used this as a way to start a discussion about how weird it is (they are used to seeing both their parents driving and cooking) that the pictures use stereotypical gender roles.
      For me there are a few books that are worth looking at even in spite of issues like this and these books are in that category. Hopefully the boys will still get the message because we chat about the issues rather than gloss over them.

  2. Anne Booth · · Reply

    They look beautiful – and I think that using the gendered illustrations with your boys as a way of discussing how odd it is to see such stereotypes is a brilliant way of dealing with the very valid problem Zoe raises.

  3. Emily Fellah · · Reply

    I also absolutely love his style. It transports me to another time and reminds me why I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books in the first place (its that magical quality that you can’t explain in words). I hadn’t considered the gender stereotyping issue, but I would imaging that today’s children wouldn’t notice or be affected by this as they live in the modern world where women do everything men do.

  4. […] actually reviewed some of the other Alain Grée books not so long ago, so it won’t come as too much of a shock when I say that we LOVE the retro […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: