Jul 26, 2023

Beefcake and Bonding in the Green Library

When I was studying French in high school,  if I ever tired of Tintin, Alix and Enak, Corentin, and Spirou and Fantasio, I could move on to the small square children's books published by the Librairie Hachette, the Bibliotheque Rose (pink) for humor and the Bibliotheque Verte (green) for action/adventure.

I preferred the green, especially Georges Bayard's Michel series, about a 15-year old and his older brother who sleuthed like the Hardy Boys (Michel a Rome, Michel en plongee, Michel et Monsieur X, etc.)  Except there were more kidnappings and last-minute rescues than the Hardy Boys faced, more stories set on boats and at the beach, and  unlike the American adventure boy series of the 1940s and 1950s  Hachette was not skimpy on the beefcake.  He was as physique-intensive as the British boys annuals.  Apparently being a teen sleuth gives you a magnificent physique.

I also liked the Italian street urchin of David Daniell's "By Jiminy" books in his French translation, Cricketto (Cricketto de Napoli, Cricketto et le petite prince, Cricketto dans la foret vierge, and so on).  He became a lean, muscular teenager, who adventured and buddy-bonded with his older friend and benefactor, Tom Trevor.  The illustrations favored black speedos for Tom and red for Cricketto.

Willis Lindquist's Haji of the Elephants is about a young Indian mahout and his Western boyfriend, in the tradition of Sabu, Jonny and Hadji, and Terry and Raji.  But in the French translation, they both became teenagers in dhotis with beautifully drawn chests and shoulders.

Rene Guillot wrote many juvenile adventure stories about massive Tarzans raised in the wilderness, such as Le Chef au masque d'or. 

And I can't even begin to count the homoerotic subtexts in Philippe Ebly's "Conquerants de l'Impossible" series, about three buffed, eternally shirtless teenagers from different time periods: Serge (modern France), Xolotl (Aztec Mexico), and Thibault (Medieval France).  They band together in a complex plot arc that decides the fate of worlds, while never so much as looking at a girl.

Ebly also wrote the "Evades du temps" series (Time Runaways), about two  teenagers, Thierry and Didier, who are hiking through a mysterious woods when they become unstuck in time, like Paul in Spellbinder.  They meet the prehistoric teenager Kouroun, who doesn't own a shirt, and band together to fight supernatural enemies and look for a way home.

They even had gay-themed novels, such as Pierre Loti's Iceland Fisherman.

I wonder if my French teacher noticed that I only borrowed the books with the beefcake covers.

In college I discovered a whole new collection, the Signe de Piste.


  1. Didn't know you could crossover through the centuries in "serious" children's books.

    1. They covered lots of genres. There were hundreds of them, many not written for the Green Library.

  2. Do you know who the artists for these books? They remind me of Pierre Joubert's work.

    1. The name Joubert sounds familiar, so he may have been the artist for some of them, anyway. This is actually a post from 2012, so I have forgotten the research.

  3. You know, I find it quite sad, that nowadays we hardly have any media that focuses on boys bonding and forming damn near romantic relationships with each other. Either there'll be some heterosexist and homophobic bravado about how manly they are/brag about getting girls, or it's played off as a joke. Nothing's genuine anymore about male friendships. Some will be quick to blame our visibility for the dearth of male bondage (being afraid of being seen as gay for even so much smiling at another dude), yet they are the ones in the majority of writers' rooms. Also whenever we do have that rare piece of media that's about non-blood related boys or men bonding, we have to have a female character inserted, so that it won't be seen as sexist. Don't get me wrong representation of women and girls is important of course. But damn I just wanna see stories in speculative fiction where it's about boys or men forming close bonds without being reminded of compulsive heterosexism or any "men from Mars, women from Venus" nonsense.


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