Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Book Review: Madeline

Title: Madeline

Author: Ludwig Bemelmans

Date: 1939 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: recent reprint 978-0-14-056419-6

Length: pages not numbered; I count 42 pages of text/illustration

Illustrations: paintings by the author

Quote: “To the tiger in the zoo Madeline just said ‘Pooh-pooh’.”

Does anybody not remember this picture book? It’s a short story about a little orphan who is so cheerful at all times that, when she has appendicitis, the other eleven orphans want to have their appendixes out too.

I remember getting a twenty-year-anniversary reprint edition when I was just old enough to read the words. My mother didn’t like it. Who wanted to read about a lot of stupid children who all wanted to be sick just because one of them was? I didn’t, I decided. Also Miss Clavel’s nunlike costume looked more than slightly like the costume of the Wicked Fairy Maleficent in the Disney picture books I had. So I was in a minority of baby-boomer girls who did not like Madeline. But most of us did, and most children still do, like this easy-reading picture classic. 

What most people loved about Madeline was not, of course, the foolishness of the little conformists, but the hasty, cartoonish, yet very recognizable scenes from downtown Paris. It’s fun to match the scenes of the orphans’ daily walks to real pictures. There were several sequels, and fans could find famous tourist attractions in those books too. 

The copy I physically own is available with a matching Storybook Doll (online price $20); other guaranteed gently-used copies are available online for $10. The whole set of seven slim books should fit into one package for a total of $40.