"Little Nicholas" is a work by a French author Rene Goscinny who also wrote the stories about Asterix and Lucky Luke. The novel originally called "Le Petit Nicholas", also has a movie adaption which speaks volumes about its popularity.
The novel is composed out of 19 chapters and every chapter represents an event from Nicholas’ life. The events are told from his perspective because of which we have an insight into his opinions about the events which include his parents, friends, and teachers. Even though the chapters are independent of one another and can be read separately they are still connected by the same characters that appear in them.
Some of the characters are typical such as the class nerd Agnan, the worst student Clotaire, the class bully Eudes, the chubby one with a big appetite Alceste and of course there is Nicholas who is the boy with a kind heart and prone to pranks.
The novel and the events described in it are intended for a younger audience because they involve childhood events with which the young readers can relate. They are written in a funny way that contributes to the novel’s curiosity and the chapters are followed by drawing by Jean-Jacques Sempe. Through the novel’s wittiness, some serious subjects are discussed such as running away from school, trying a cigarette for the first time, running away from home but also there is an emphasize on the love towards a mother and friends. All the chapters end happily with a witty remark and have a moral to them. For example, they tell young readers that running away from home or school is bad behavior that always gets punished.
Theme: Nicholas’ adventures in school, at his home and with his friends
Genre: children’s novel
Place: School, Nicholas’ home, and his friend’s houses
Time: one part of the school year
The novel starts in school with a teacher trying to calm down her class so they could take their class photo. The photographer waited patiently and in the end suggested that the kids line up in three rows. In order to do that they were supposed to go to the basement, to get some boxes on which they’ll stand. One of the students placed a bag on himself and pretended to be a ghost until the teacher took him out to the garden. While the kids were wondering the basement they got filthy so they had to wash up and calm their hair before the photo-shooting. Everyone wanted to be in the last row, standing on boxes so there was another mess. When they finally lined up Nicholas was standing next to Alceste, an obese kid who always ate something. In that moment he was eating a jelly sandwich and he got some on his shirt so the teacher made him switch places with another kid. The kid punched him and when Alceste wanted to fight back he accidentally hit Agnan, the nerdy kid with glasses. As a punishment they all got extra homework and when they once again lined up to take the picture the photographer was gone.
On one occasion Nicholas called his friends to come play cowboys with him. The boys really got into the roles and brought some equipment with them. Everyone dressed up as someone – a cop, an Indian, a cowboy… The only problem was they couldn’t agree who was the main man and they got into a fight. Nicolas’s father came to calm them down and show them how to play. They tied him up to a tree and he played their captive. Their neighbor dropped by and wanted to play with them and the father wanted to get rid of him but wasn’t very successful at it. The boys gave up on their game and went to the house for a snack. When they got out the father was still tied to a tree and the neighbor was gone.
One day the teacher was absent so the schoolmaster took the kids to class. They all called him Frog because he always wanted the kids to look him in the eyes that were bulged out like frog’s eyes are. He told them to look him in the eyes and promise to behave. The best student Agnan was assigned to keep the order in class. He started to behave as a teacher and wanted everyone to study some math but no one paid attention to him. They decided to play football instead. Frog came to the classroom and told them to be quiet. This time a boy was on the lookout for the schoolmaster’s arrival but unfortunately, he fell asleep and ended up with a bruised nose. The classroom was a mess and Frog told them they’ll all be punished if they keep up with their behavior. Everyone took his warning seriously and remained calm. The frog came and someone screamed out his nickname. He was furious about it and wanted to know who had said it. Everyone blamed Nicholas. Disorder took place in the classroom again and all of the students got detention. The next day their teacher was back and Frog was nowhere in sight.
Alceste invited the whole class over one night to play football and try out the new ball his father got for him. Agnan was placed as the judge because he wore glasses and the ball couldn’t hit him and also nobody liked him. He needed a whistle and the only boy who had it didn’t want to give it to him so every time someone did something wrong he had to signal the boy so he could whistle. Later on, there was a fight because everyone wanted to be captain. Nicholas suggested they flip a coin and in the end, he and Geoffroy were chosen to be captains. They had their teams and when they started the game they all fought again because of the positions they were supposed to play. Eudes punched a few people and then they decided to start the game but there was another problem. The sun hit hard to one side of the court and no one wanted to be on that side. A fight broke out and Alceste then realized he had forgotten the ball.
The teacher told the class that a new inspector was coming by and that all of them must behave. She asked Agnan to put ink on every desk in case the inspector wanted the kids to draw him something. Someone yelled that the inspector was coming, Agnan got scared and accidentally spilled the ink all over the desk. The teacher was furious with Eudes who yelled on purpose to scare Agnan and he sent him to stand in the corner. It made him cry because he thought the inspector would ask him a lot of questions and also he wasn’t wrong when he yelled because he did see the inspector. The teacher forgave him that time. They wanted to move the desk filled with ink into the last row but the inspector and headmaster interrupted them. The inspector asked for an explanation and demanded the bench to be returned back to its place. The inspector wanted Eudes to tell him something about the story they were working on and when a big fight broke out in the classroom the inspector realized how difficult it was to be a teacher and congratulated the teacher on all of her hard work.
Walking home Nicholas found a stray dog and he felt sorry for him so he took him home. His mother wasn’t happy about it and she yelled at him because she had forbidden him to bring home stray animals. The fact that the dog Rex started chewing the couch cushion didn’t help his case. His mother ordered him to get rid of the dog. Nicholas found his father, explained him the situation and said that he would train him. His father agreed to talk to his mother because he really liked the dog. His mother still didn’t want the dog inside the house so Nichols suggested they keep the dog in the yard. His father and he started to build a dog house immediately. Then a man appeared and claimed it was his dog named Kiki and that his information was on his collar. Even the mother began to cry so Nicholas promised to bring her a new dog.
A new student came to class and his name was George and he was Flemish. They gave him a nickname Djocky. He didn’t know the language very well so the students had to have patience with him. He was fast to learn a few words such as “lame” and “stupid” and the teacher was angry about it and blamed the rest of the students for that. She thought that Djocky’s parents would get a bad impression of the school because of the small incident and after that day Djocky never came back to the class.
Nicholas decided to buy his mother a big bouquet of flowers for her birthday and he was happy because he had enough money. He couldn’t wait for the class to end so he could run to buy it. Nicholas kept his money in his pocket. After school, he went to buy it with Alceste. The saleslady told him that for that amount of money he couldn’t buy many flowers so she filled the bouquet with leaves. On their way home the boys encountered their classmates who made fun of Nicholas for carrying around a bouquet. Nicholas gave the bouquet to Alceste so he could kick Eudes. Later Eudes mocked Alceste and he hit him with the bouquet and ruined him. Nicholas picked up the few flowers that were left and headed home. He encountered another friend and played a game with him. After his friend lost he pushed him so that Nicholas sat on the bouquet. Later he felt sorry and helped Nicholas pick up the remaining flowers. Nicholas once again saw a friend and warned him immediately not to mock his bouquet and his friend asked what bouquet was he talking about and then Nicholas hit him in the face with the bouquet. The boy threw the bouquet so high that it landed on a car that drove off. His friend hurried on his bike to get the last remaining flower. Nicholas came home with one flower, congratulated his mother and then started to cry. His mother told him it was the most beautiful bouquet she had ever gotten.
The principal gave students their report cards and wasn’t satisfied with their success. Most of them had written bad notes about their behavior and about being mean, restless and getting into fights. Only Agnan, the best student in class, didn’t share their problem. The rest of the class was very concerned about their parent’s reaction because they’ve been in that situation before. One boy bragged about having to look at his father to get him to sign his report card but he invited Nicholas to go home with him that day because he was a bit scared. His father was angry and he slapped him. Nicholas went home to give his parents the report card. They had some financial issues and they didn’t pay much attention to his grades. His father just signed the card and because of that Nicholas came to the conclusion that his parents don’t love him because if they did they’d care about his report card.
One day Nicholas’s mother invited her friend and her daughter for tea. Nicholas wasn’t thrilled about it because he didn’t really like girls. His mother warned him that he must behave and ordered him to show Louisette his toys. When the two of them came to his room Louisette showed her true self. She started to insult and hit Nicholas and the only thing he did to fight back was to pull her braid. When their moms came to the room both of them pretended like nothing had happened and Louisette was so charming that she won over the heart of Nicholas’s mother immediately. When they left Louisette took his plane and threw it out the window to the backyard. When they went to pick it up she ordered Nicholas to stand between two trees and try to stop her ball from going through. She accidentally broke the window with the ball and Nicholas was blamed for it. He lost his dinner but wasn’t sad about it. He decided he’ll marry Louisette when they grow up because she had a talent for football.
The school was getting ready for the arrival of the minister who was a former student. The headmaster wanted to show off the school in its best light. He picked three students to give the mister the flowers but he was sad they weren’t girls so they could have bows in the colors of the flag. The other boys made fun of them because of the headmaster’s idea so the boys got into a fight. In the end, Nicholas and some of his friends were locked up by the headmaster and they didn’t attend the ceremony.
One day Alceste came by to visit Nicholas and show him the cigarette he found. They decided to hide so no one would see them but they didn’t have matches to light it up. They went to buy them but the cashier thought they were too young to buy matches. In the end, they managed to find one and light up the cigarette. Both of them got sick because of it. Nicholas was scared to come clean to his mother so he told her he got sick from the smoke. Because of his lie his mother banned his father from smoking in the house.
The teacher told the students that the headmaster was retiring and they decided to do a little ceremony for him and the parents were also invited to attend it. Nicholas’s class was supposed to perform a play. When they were supposed to have their first rehearsal the students started arguing about who gets which part and some of them started a fight. The teacher had no strength to deal with them so she just canceled the play and told them they won’t be participating in the ceremony for the headmaster.
Nicholas’s father promised him he’ll buy him a bike if he’ll be in the top ten best students in class on his math test. Nicholas was the tenth and he was very proud to give his father the good news but he also told him that only 11 students took the test because many of them are ill and that the 11th was Clotaire who was the worst student in class. His father still kept his promise and bought his son a bike. His father told him how he was a professional cyclist before he got married to his mother and he decided to show him his skills. Right in that moment their neighbor appeared and started to make fun of his father. In the end, the two of them decided to do a little race. The one that needs less time to circle the block wins. Nicholas’s father took a lot of time and in the end, he came back pushing the bike. He ran into a garbage can and broke the bike.
Nicholas got ill because the previous day he ate a lot of chocolate, candy, and cake so the doctor came by to visit him and suggested he should fast for a few days. Alceste came by to visit him and he brought chocolate. Nicholas’ mother warned him that he shouldn’t give it to Nicholas and Alceste told her he brought it all on himself. Nicholas asked him for some chocolate and Alceste didn’t give him any so they got into a fight. Nicholas’s mother sent Alceste home and Nicholas was sad because they were having fun. He got hungry and started going through the fridge. When his mom caught him, he dropped everything to the floor and got food all over his clothes so his mother sent him to take a shower and go to bed. Nicholas decided to draw a bit so he took some papers that had something written on one side and the other side was clear. He thought that no one needed them anymore. he got his pajama and bed sheets dirty and when his mother saw it she was furious. The doctor came by again and he told Nicholas he was healthy but he told his mother that she doesn’t look very well and that she should fast for a few days.
One day Alceste suggested to Nicholas that they should skip school. Nicholas had a million reasons not to do it but he did it. They wanted to see a movie but they had no money. They couldn’t hang out at the park because the guard might find it strange that they’re not in school. They came to the conclusion that it was too late to go back to school because they would be punished. Nicholas started crying because he wanted to be in school with his friends even if he had to study math. They blamed each other for skipping school and started a fight. They didn’t have fun because it was raining and they couldn’t go home. When Nicholas got home he looked tired and his mother told him he doesn’t have to go to school tomorrow if he feels ill but he rejected that because he knew that tomorrow Alceste and he will brag to everyone about the great time they’ve had while skipping school.
Nicholas’s mother banned him from hanging out with his friends because they always get into a lot of trouble. Nicholas was invited to come and play with Agnan who his mother thought to be a good boy that will influence Nicholas in a positive way. Agnan warned him right away that they can’t get into a fight because he wore glasses and his mother will put him in jail if he hits him. Nicholas told him he’ll behave because he promised so to his mother. Agnan had few toys and a lot of books so they’ve decided to fill the tub and make paper boats. They had fun but didn’t want to make a big mess in the bathroom. When they went back to the room they started throwing the globe around but Agnan didn’t see clearly without his glasses so he accidentally broke the mirror. They came to a conclusion they had to be more careful so they wouldn’t make their moms angry. They played with Agnan’s chemistry set but their experiment went wrong and the whole room was covered with soot. Agnan’s mother was furious and she called Nicholas’s mother that was furious as well. Nicholas had a lot of fun hanging out with Agnan but he doubted their mothers will allow them to hang out anymore.
Nicholas decided to run away from home because he spilled some ink on the carpet and his mother was furious. He started crying saying he’ll run away but his mother didn’t pay much attention to his threats. He grabbed his school bag, placed his toys inside of it, some chocolate, and money and headed out for his adventure. He dreamed about coming home rich when his parents will be already old and buying himself a carpet on which he will spill all the ink he wants. He even invited Acleste to join him but he declined because his mother was preparing his favorite diner. He realized he wasn’t getting far on foot so he wanted to buy his friends bike but he shut the door at his face. He told him to come by when he’ll be rich and that he’ll sell him his bike then. He wanted to gather the money in order to buy the bike so he decided to sell his toys. The salesman told him they sell toys but don’t buy them. To get rid of him the salesman gave him a little car toy. His mother was angry because he came late to dinner. Nicholas came to the conclusion he had to run away tomorrow and come back when he will be very rich.
Characters: Nicholas, Agnan, Acleste, Clotaire, Eudes, Geoffrey, Joachim, Rufus, Louisette, the parents, teacher, headmaster
Nicholas - the main character of the novel who describes various events from his life. He goes to junior high and he is a kind-hearted, restless boy. His relationship with his teacher, parents and friends are shown in the novel.
He says that he has a lot of good friends who often get into fights but that their fights only mean they’re having a good time. He is well raised and respects his parents and emphasizes the fact he is very obedient to his mother. He is well aware he shouldn’t do certain things, such as smoking and skipping school because they bring negative consequences but he still does them.
His love for his mother is notable in his determination to buy her a bouquet for her birthday but the bouquet gets destroyed and he only gives her one flower. His wittiness is shown when he suggested the boys pick the captains of their teams by flipping a coin and not by fighting. Like all the other kids he showed his anger in a drastic way like running away from home because he thought his parents don’t love nor respect him.
Agnan - the best student in class and the class nerd who wears glasses and tells everyone to the teacher. He always complains because no one likes him and threatens to tell all about it to his parents. Because of his behavior, he isn’t the most liked kid in class but no one can hit him because he wears glasses. In one chapter Nicholas’s visit to Agnan is described. He was forced to go to his house by his mother who thought Agnan would be a good influence but in the end, the boys create a huge mess and their mother don’t let them play together anymore.
Alceste - an obese boy who always eats something and he is one of Nicholas’s closest friends. He shows multiple times that he is a good and a loyal friend. He visits Nicholas when he gets ill and helps him buy a bouquet for his mother that ended up ruined partially because of Alceste who used it to hit the boys who mocked Nicholas. He also has some negative sides. He was the main reason for Nicholas’s little experiment with cigarettes and skipping school. Even though Nicholas knew it was wrong to do those things he gave in to Alceste’s convincing.
Geoffroy - a spoiled boy whose father buys him everything he wants. His spoiled behavior is emphasized several times during the novels. For example, during the football game, he came dressed in original football clothes and during the game of cowboys he was dressed an s a real cowboy while other boys used what they had. On the class photo shoot, he came dressed as a Martian and refused to change.
Eudes - the main bully that solves everything with fighting and not talking. Nicholas considers him one of his best friends and his kind side is shown in his attempt to help Nicholas give his mother the bouquet for her birthday. Even though he comes off as a strong and fearless boy Nicholas sees him in a different light when he brings his report card home and gets slapped by his father.
René Goscinny Biography
René Goscinny was a French writer and comic editor. He was born in Paris on August 14th, 1962. He became popular for editing the illustration of the book Asterix on which he collaborated with Alert Uderz.
He was born in a Jewish family that moved to Paris from Poland. His father Stanisław Simkha Gościnny was an engineer in Warszawa, Poland. He has 6 years older brother Claude.
His parents met in Paris where they fell in love and got married in 1919. Two years after Rene was born his family decided to move to Buenos Aires, Argentina, because of his father’s work.
He had a happy childhood in Buenos Aires and there he attended French schools. He was the main entertainer of the class and he used it to hide away his shyness. He started to draw at an early age and he drew the themes of the stories he likes to read.
In December of 1943 he lost his father just a year after graduating. His father’s death forced his to get a job and next year he became an accountant. The next year he was fired and then got a job in an agency as a junior illustrator.
In 1945 he moved to New York with his mother where they met with his uncle Boris. To avoid participating in the American army Rene moved to Paris in 1946 where he served in the French army. He became an appreciated illustrator and made posters for the army.
In 1947 he came back to New York where he lived in hard conditions. He was out of work and without money. He managed to get a job in a small studio where he worked with his friends Will Elder, Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman. After that, he became the director of the publishing company Kunen. There he wrote 4 children’s books. He met the authors of the show Lucky Luke and he started writing for the mentioned show in 1955 until he died.
Soon he moved to Paris again where he worked in a small agency. In 1955 he participated in the formation of a union. He made illustrations for factories and in 1956 he started working with the magazine "Trintin".
In 1959 the union started working with the magazine "Pilot" and Rene became one of the best writers for the mentioned magazine. He represented his character Asterix for the first time in that magazine and later on the character became a huge hit.
In 1967 he married Gilberte Pollaro-Millo and in 1968 he got a daughter Anne Goscinny who also became a writer.
He died on November 5th, 1977 from cardiac arrest during a routine exam at the doctor. He was buried in Nice in a Jewish cemetery.