“My name is Constance. I am locked in an evil mansion.
It’s my parents’ house.” (Constance and Tiny, pgs1-2)
Constance and Tiny is the first of the two books, and tells a tale of woe. Constance is our narrator, and she relates the mistreatment that she and her cat, Tiny, receive at the hands of her parents, teachers and, after she runs away with her cat and the money she “finds” in her mother’s purse, the police.
“Thanks to the money I found, we were able to live quietly for a little while. But my parents hired a couple of bandits to capture us.” (Constance and Tiny, pgs17-18)
In the second book, Constance and the Great Escape, Constance tells us a tale of separation from her beloved Tiny. A victim of the plotting between her parents and the school principal, she is sent to prison (italics, Constance) at the “Jolly Boarding School.” Constance soon has a plan of escape: be agreeable.
“Poor little Tiny, all alone in that evil house. I had to escape from this trap, and fast! At midnight, I came up with the perfect plan. I would pretend to be the ideal inmate.” (Constance and the Great Escape, pgs13-14)
I fell in love with Constance as soon as I discovered these 24 page gems. Every illustration directly contradicts Constance’s perception of the world. When Constance enacts her plan in the Great Escape, she flips this conceit in purposefully contradicting reality as shown in the illustrations.
“We are here to learn and get smart!” (Constance and the Great Escape, pg17)
Eric Heliot’s illustrations are spot on. In black and white with tan, red and sometimes pink, we see that Constance is an Addams Family girl in a Disney Family world.
Kids and adults alike will love these books. Back in my other life as a substitute teacher, I used Constance and Tiny to teach the concept and meaning of a contradiction to a sixth grade class (their teacher had left a section of the day that I could just pick a learning goal and teach however I liked) and they absolutely loved it. Each student made their own little book, with their story being directly contradicted by their illustrations.
These are dark little gems, snarky, impish, and so much fun! They were originally published in France by Hachette Livre in 2007 as “Constance et Miniature” and “Constance en pension.” A third book published in 2008, “Constance et les Pirates,” is described (after using Google’s Translate) as “Constance decides to run away once and for all. With Miniature kitten (Tiny), she embarks on a clandestine cargo. Panic on board!” Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an English language version.
Looking for more creepy-ish reads? These books and more can be found on my Monthly Recommendations post for October.
Constance and Tiny by Pierre Le Gall and Eric Heliot (translation by Shannon Rowan and Robert Agis)| Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2009 | Hardback
Constance and the Great Escape by Pierre Le Gall and Eric Heliot (translation by Shannon Rowan and Robert Agis)| Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2009 | Hardback