The World of Barbapapa
I came across Barbapapa at World Kids Books in International Village just before I wrote my first post about Books for Bilingual Children. I went in looking to buy a book for my daughter in French, and Barbapapa by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor caught my interest.
That evening we read the book on our bus ride home, and although my daughter didn’t understand all of the words in French, she really enjoyed the story and has since developed a love for all things Barbapapa.
The first book in the series, written in France in 1970, tells the story of Barbapapa, a giant, pink, pear-shaped character that grows out the ground and uses shape-changing abilities to do good deeds. The book was later turned into a series of 5 minute cartoons, here’s one of my favourites that shows how Barbamama and their 7 children were born. The narrator says that the babies were born “à la manière des barbapapas, un peu comme les tortues en mettant les oeufs dans la terre” – the barbapapa way, a little bit like turtles, by putting the eggs in the ground. Interesting.
Barbe à Papa
While my family and I were on vacation in Montreal, we found a Barbapapa mini-library at Archambault. The gift set comes with a small stuffed toy, which my daughter became attached to, and we were reminded of how much she enjoys the stories.
One day we went to a fair and my wife saw the words barbe à papa written on the packaging of cotton candy and she turned to me and said, “hey, does that have anything to do with Barbapapa?” and that’s when we figured it all out. Although at one point I had learned how to say cotton candy in French (litterally “dad’s beard”), I had not made the connection.
According to Wikipedia in French, Tison and Taylor, the French-American couple who wrote and illustrated the books were walking through a park one day when Taylor, who didn’t speak the language, overheard a child say something that sounded like “Baa baa baa baa”, his wife then told him that the child was saying cotton candy. Later at a restaurant the couple began to draw a character based on the sweet treat on the tablecloth, and they named him Barbapapa, the rest is history!
Hupla hup Barba-truc! Clickety-click barba-trick! バーバトリック Resta di stucco, è un Barbatrucco!
Barbapapa theme song in Italian.
The books, the cartoons, the character’s names and their token sayings have been translated into many different languages, a list of which can be found here. The Vancouver Public Library lists 29 titles – 15 in French, 9 in Japanese and 5 in Italian.
I couldn’t find any clips in English, but here’s an episode in Castilian Spanish that is based on the original book, where Barbapapa does two good deeds.
Use in Bilingual Education
I’m very excited to use my daughter’s interest in Barbapapa to teach her more French, we still have many books to read and she hasn’t even seen the TV show yet.
I can’t believe that I had never heard of the series before this year. As a kid we had to watch TVOntario’s series Téléfrançais…I could probably write a whole blog about that show too!
I’ll leave you with this awesome song from the 70’s about these adorable creatures. Until next time!