What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this story teaches children that one can overcome fear by encountering its not-so-scary source. However, the tale lacks the characterization and plot twists you might expect from the Babar stories.
What's the story?
Hiking with their friend, the Old Lady, Babar and family decide to take refuge from a rainstorm in the Black Castle, which is reputed to be haunted. There, the kids encounter the friendly ghost, Baron Bardula, when they run off to explore the castle after the adults fall asleep.
After the baron shows them around the castle and regales them with stories of long ago, the children--who can see the ghost, although others can't--invite him to follow them back to Celesteville.
Upon the elephant family's return to the palace, mysterious things begin to happen: A lemonade pitcher floats in the air, and Arthur is pushed through the park in a shopping cart by an invisible hand. But when the ghost disrupts school and Celesteville's traffic, it's time for him to go back home.
Is it any good?
Laurent de Brunhoff grew up listening to his mother's stories about a small elephant that his father, Jean, turned into Babar, one of the most solid icons of children's literature. Jean began publishing his stories late in life, and it fell to Laurent to keep up the family tradition. This tale, however, lacks the characterization and plot twists you might expect from Jean's stories, and standing alone as a ghost story, even without Babar's family, it lacks the suspense and thrills American children have come to expect from the genre.
However, it is a good-natured and well-meaning book, ideal for parents who are being hounded for a ghost story by children too young to handle emotional suspense. Laurent's pictures are not as detailed or compelling as his father's, but in the end he succeeds in his lifelong effort to keep Babar alive in children's minds.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about fear of the unknown. The children are afraid of the ghost at first. How do they overcome their fear? Can you think of a time you were afraid of something you didn't understand? Did you conquer your fears?