‘It was her story’: Riad Sattouf on the real girl behind his Esther comics

When the graphic novelist met an unusually chatty nine-year-old, he was so struck by her talk that he began putting it into cartoons, which have been a hit in France

“My name is Esther and I am nine years old. I live in Paris in the 17th arrondissement.” So starts the story of Esther, a girl growing up in the French capital, whose slice-of-life tales have been a huge hit across the Channel. These vignettes of a city childhood are based on conversations between a real, unnamed girl and the prize-winning graphic novelist Riad Sattouf. The Esther comic strips are featured in national news magazines, and have been collected into five bestselling books.

Now UK readers are to be introduced to Esther for the first time, with Esther’s Notebooks, a collection of the series translated to English, coming out this week.

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