I was first introduced Asterix the Gaul by Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo in my high school Latin class many years ago. The text had been translated from the original French into Latin. Does that sound dry? A book about Gauls from Roman times written in Latin? Wrong! My classmates and I loved the spunky cartoon characters so much, we would spend hours trying to figure out what each was saying. I’m sure all my success in Latin is due to the foresight of our teacher to provide us with Asterix books.
Several years ago, I stumbled on an English version. It turns out that there is a whole series featuring Asterix and Orion publishers has been re-releasing the books. I immediately bought several for my then elementary-school-age son. He loved them, too. In fact he went in costume as Asterix the Gaul on Halloween, and was bitterly disappointed when everyone thought he was a Viking.
What’s to love:
- Incredibly clever word play and side-splitting puns
- A humorous overview of history and geography during Roman times
- Sly references to classics, films and famous pieces of artwork
What a few parents may not love:
- Cartoon violence in the form of fighting
Most of the violence is the direct result of the conflict between the Gauls and the Romans, which is historically appropriate. To me, it seems so over-the-top slapstick that it is not objectionable, but I did want to mention it for those that are sensitive to such things.
You can get somewhat of a feel for the flavor in the film version. (The books are better. They don’t have the dated feel.)
Although listed as for ages 9-12, the Asterix books are really for all ages. Our local library files them in young adult or sometimes in graphic books. If your child is learning a language or you want to brush up on the language you took in high school, you might consider the French or Latin versions as well.
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Publisher: Orion (September 1, 2004)
Asterix the Gaul is the first in the series.
A selection from the Asterix series in English
A selection from the Asterix series in French
A selection from The Asterix series in Latin