“Music is the universal language of [hu]mankind.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It has been one of my deepest regrets in life that I was not brought up bilingual. Given that I have both British and French-Canadian roots, it would have been really nice to be able to communicate with my relatives in both languages. Unfortunately my French instruction at school did little to remedy this situation. Though I learned important phrases, vocabulary and verb conjugations, I never could speak French fluently. Still, I love the language, and listening to French-Canadian folk music has made me feel connected to my heritage, even without being bilingual. There are many collections of French music for children and I have found some wonderful (mostly) Canadian resources for parents and educators wanting to enrich the lives of children with songs, rhymes and stories that showcase the French language. I hope you will find them as beautiful and joyful as I do!
Kaldor, C., and Campagne, C. (1988). Lullaby Berceuse [CD]. Winnipeg, Canada: Oak Street Music
This is a very sweet collection of lullabies performed in both French and English, by Connie Kaldor and her sister-in-law, the late Carmen Campagne (1959 – 2018), both award winning Canadian songwriters and performers. I was very saddened to learn that Carmen Campagne passed away earlier in July, as I have long enjoyed her recordings for children and have often played them in my classroom. Her gift to children was truly precious. Songs include Hush-A-By, Prairie Lullaby, Bonne Nuit and Poulette Grise. A beautiful duet sung by Kaldor and Campagne is Maman Fait Dodo. The artists write, “We hope that these songs will not only help you put your child to sleep, but encourage you to hum and sing along as well. Nous espérons que ces chansons vous aideront à chanter et fredonner avec nous.” There is an accompanying beautifully illustrated book called Lullaby Berceuse: A Warm Prairie Night.
Grunsky, J. (2009). Partout où les enfants chantent [CD]. Toronto: Casablanca Kids
Jack Grunsky is yet another wonderful, Canadian, award winning children’s musician. This CD has numerous traditional songs in French like Au Clair de la Lune and Les Petits Marionettes, and many new ones that are about familiar things such as how to say hello, the family, planting, going to sleep. A favourite of mine about being creative, is called Avec Mes Deux Mains. The instrumentation on this CD is really lovely, emphasizing guitar and different percussion instruments, and many songs have an African, Zydeco or Asian flavour. This is an upbeat collection that will encourage dancing and singing along.
Latham, Hugh (translator) and Barbara Cooney (illustrator). Mother Goose in French. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1964.
I was pleased to stumble across a copy of this book at a neighbour’s Little Free Library, to add to my diverse collection of Mother Goose rhymes. I enjoyed looking at the titles and recognizing familiar English favourites in translation, like Marie Avait un P’tit Agneau, Jean et Jeanne, Ce Petit Porc and Les Trois Minets. I found that being familiar with the rhymes already helped me to deciper the meaning of the words in French that I did not know. The illustrations, along with the glossary at the back of the book, could aid English speaking readers in predicting the meaning of words like culbuta; par monts et par vaux; s’alita.
Major, Henriette. 100 Comptines. Saint-Laurent, Quebec: Fides, 1999.
This is a fun assortment of children’s songs and rhymes in French, collected by Henriette Major (1933 – 2006), a French-Canadian writer whose publications included several books of songs for children. This is a great resource for providing them with a repertoire of songs and rhymes that reinforces their learning in French. The book includes a CD with recordings of each song and rhyme recited (or sung) by a man, woman and a child. This is very helpful for learning the melodies, for reading rhythmically and for proper pronunciation. Through these rhymes, children will visit exciting new places, meet extradordinary characters, participate in celebrations and explore new foods. Chansons Douces, Chansons Tendres is another of Major’s collections of lullabies, which also comes with a CD.
Tibo, Gilles. Simon Makes Music. Canada: Tundra Books, 1995
This charming book, a translation of Simon et la Musique, is written and beautifully illustrated with airbrush and colour pencil. Tibo is one of Quebec’s most prolific authors and artists. Simon tries in many ways to share his love of music with different animals he meets by playing a variety of instruments including flute, horn, harp and bell. However, the animals prefer the sounds of nature to those of Simon’s instruments. Simon runs into trouble when he tries to accompany the the sounds of wind and thunder. Once joined by others who play instruments as he does, Simon discovers that music made with friends is the sweetest sound of all.
“Music is a second language to my heart.” ~ Mara Arps