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Cartooning has been a part of French culture ever since King Louis XIV ruled France 300 years ago. This week, the NewsHour’s Stephen Free visited the editors of a French magazine, who are embracing that tradition in explaining the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris to children.
Cartoonist and father of three Frederic Benaglia was glued to the TV last weekend, watching coverage of the Paris attacks with his 15-year-old son.
FREDERIC BENAGLIA, CARTOONIST:
First, we heard the explosions, and then we saw the news that there were attacks in the neighborhood where we hang out all the time and where we have friends. We were obviously horrified.
Benaglia draws cartoons for one of France's most popular children's magazines, Astrapi, which is geared to kids seven to eleven years old.
The next day we thought, 'What can we do to explain this to kids?' It's traumatic for them. These events are really, really tough.
Benaglia and his editor Gwenaelle Boulet, who happens to be his wife, decided to produce a special edition to explain the attacks.
GWENAELLE BOULET, EDITOR, ASTRAPI:
A lot of kids were afraid — afraid that the bad guys would come to their houses. That was the big question. They were wondering, 'Can the bad guys come and get me?'
So Boulet and Bengalia did what they do best: she began to write, and he began to draw.
I didn't want something too aggressive, I didn't want images of the Eiffel Tower broken or bloodied, but I wanted to show the pain. I think that's the feeling we all had. We're a very diverse society. I wanted to show black people, Arabs, white people, Asians — all the nationalities. That was really important.
In just 24 hours, Boulet and Benaglia produced a two-page free-to-download version of their magazine.
Since they posted it online a week ago, the website has had nearly 2 million visitors.
The first drawing was about compassion and sadness. The second was more about revolt or resistance, and then it ends with the word 'freedom.' Freedom is an important word.
It shows to children that you can't give up, you have to protect yourself with this word and with this concept. These are concepts that are not easy to understand for kids, and sometimes a drawing is easier to understand than words.
Child psychologist Cecile Vienot says illustrations like those in Astrapi's special edition can help children cope with traumatic events.
CECILE VIENOT, CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST:
You can try to represent it in a more upbeat way. You can choose colors, or try to explain the values that were under attack.
There are illustrators that have tried to recreate a scene by drawing people in a cafe on a terrace to show how our values were impacted, more than showing an actual scene of a terror attack.
Boulet says they didn't want to shy away from dealing with a difficult topic. But the next issue of the magazine probably won't address the Paris attacks.
We have to be careful, because kids don't have the same timing as adults. Adults need to revisit things to fully understand them. But kids also have a right, and it's the right to move on, to forget, to lead their lives as children, and to play.
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