Holbrook takes readers along on her visits with a variety of actual French families who have children of about ten to thirteen. We meet children in towns, farms, and villages in different parts of France; observe them at home (in the mouth-watering first chapter, we sit in on a farm lunch in Provence), at school, on outings, and at work (picking grapes, harvesting oysters, doing the marketing, or digging potatoes for the family dinner). We take note of their table customs (""Laetitia holds her fork in her left hand, as do all Europeans"") and learn about some of the educational reforms that allow older children and their families to choose their programs. Holbrook's enthusiasm for the joys of modern education (bright new buildings, audio-visual aids) is bland and unprobing, as are her simplistic references to such touchier matters as the 1968 revolt and the reasons for anti-Algerian prejudice. A metaphoric reference (regarding the Basques) to ""the genes of history"" is more confusing than poetic; and the keynote and chapter heading, ""French with Spice,"" to cover the Algerians, Corsicans, Gypsies, and Basques, has a slightly off taste. But Holbrook is less concerned with social attitudes than with the textures of young people's everyday lives; and though deep feelings aren't sounded or individuals scrutinized, her particular families in particular places do project a sense of how their lives are lived.