Le Petit Monde de Pierre, Age group: 9-12, Channel 4, Thursdays, 10.45am. Transcript and activity book with photocopiable worksheets. Pounds 4.95, Educational Television Company, 01926 433333
The imaginary friend the sign of a highly-developed capacity for fantasy, or a lonely child desperately seeking friendship? Whatever the theory, the truth of the matter is that there are a lot of them about.
An imaginary king however, which features in this new French series, is a new departure. Le Roi of Le Petit Monde de Pierre arrives unannounced in Pierre's bedroom, having made an unlikely journey from "le pays de l'autre cote du lit". On this normal school day, Pierre is prevented from dressing as the king has commandeered his clothes. Pierre succeeds in securing a clothes swap and, returning to his parents dressed in regal garb, offers his fantastic explanation of events. With his own clothes turning up under the bedclothes almost immediately, Pierre's implausible explanations are understandably dismissed and normal family life is restored.
The first of 10 programmes, "Les Habits du Roi" sets the pace for Pierre's further encounters with his friend. The story-lines are simple and while the level of language is not absolutely basic, at least passive comprehension is assured by frequent repetition and obvious actions. In "La Toilette du Roi", for example, Pierre and the King see one another's images in the mirror and the conversation in mirror image ensures natural repetition.
Humour pervades every episode with le Roi successfully playing the role of lovable buffoon. And much of it will be appreciated by younger viewers of course the King gets chocolate cake at every meal and would prefer Pierre's much- loathed potato soup.
The programmes would be very much better suited to primary schoolchildren. First-year secondary pupils with their new-found sophistication would, despite the relatively high level of French, arguably find the idea of an imaginary friend just too childish.
In common with other broadcast material, Le Petit Monde de Pierre is enhanced by the accompanying activity book. For each episode this provides two pages of activities on photocopiable worksheets. Tasks here vary from basic vocabulary to really quite onerous, paired speaking work. The ability range covered in the worksheets is broad and would be well suited to a differentiated scheme of work.
In general terms, Le Petit Monde de Pierre offers entertaining television for upper primary pupils, its main value lying less in direct language teaching as in encouraging the enjoyment of an amusing programme in French, without needing to be able to understand every word.