Babar the King

Book review by
Kevin McCaffrey, Common Sense Media
Babar the King Book Poster Image
Elephant monarch establishes kingly credentials.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages
Violence & Scariness

Babar kills a snake that has bitten the old lady. Cornelius is briefly caught in a house fire. Worrying about his sick friends, Babar has an intense dream.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the characteristically detailed artwork blends with a story that is engrossing even by today's standards.

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What's the story?

Rome wasn't built in a day, but it seems Celesteville practically is when Babar leads the other elephants in constructing a capital city and creating a pleasant and well-ordered civilization. But into every idyll some misfortune must fall, and lessons are be learned on the road to ultimate happiness.


Is it any good?

Jean de Brunhoff uses simple, direct language that communicates understanding and acceptance of life as it happens. There is much to observe in Babar's story: He picks a happy, beautiful spot to build his city, which concerns the fish there, but other animals smooth the way. The elephants work industriously and enjoy the fruits of their labor. In a reminder of how the world should work, they each pick jobs that will aid others.

Ever mindful of a child's concerns, de Brunhoff includes in Babar's worried, restless night a disturbing dream that nevertheless foretells that everything will turn out right. Kids process ideas in books wisely and alertly, and de Brunhoff has respect for these qualities. Knowing he was dying of tuberculosis, he wished to pass on to his own children an unflinching sense of tragedy and triumph, responsibility and acquiescence. His graceful vision makes you long to have met him, but at least through his books, another generation can fall under his sway.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about building a community. How do the animals find their roles in building the new city? How are they like the people who help in your community?

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