You might call this graphic novel a translation of a translation. Once a week for three years, cartoonist and filmmaker Riad Sattouf met with his friend's daughter Esther, who told him stories about her life, which he then translated into comic strips. Written in French, those cartoons have been translated into English by Sam Taylor.

Esther lives in Paris, and this book covers ages 9 through 12, when her life revolves around friends, school and family. Esther is an adorable character — strong-minded, curious, wary of dogs, loves her parents but sometimes rebels. She doesn't think she believes in God but she prays if something is important. ("Dear God, please cancel tomorrow's English test, I beg you, Lord.")

She imagines what it will be like to be grown up. ("I'll live in a tiny apartment with my friend Cassandra and we'll eat junk food all day and be happy.")

But she is also acutely aware of the larger world — she fears terrorist attacks, she's savvy to schoolyard bullies and their extortionist ways, she worries about politics. (If Marine Le Pen is elected president, she says, her family will move to Belgium.)

Sattouf's cheery illustrations capture Esther's verve and innocence, and they gracefully change as she grows from child to preteen. The stories are wonderful — exuberant, funny, poignant and tender. They ring with the wonder of youth.

Laurie Hertzel is the senior editor for books at the Star Tribune.

Esther's Notebooks

By: Riad Sattouf, translated from the French by Sam Taylor.

Publisher: Pantheon, 165 pages, $30.