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Mad About Madeline
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
What's the story?
In brisk and bouncy verse, fearless Madeline has her appendix removed, falls into the Seine, and joins a circus. The stories vary in quality but will delight Madeline's fans. Bemelmans's illustrations are delightful. This edition includes original sketches, an essay by Bemelmans, and a fine introduction by former columnist Anna Quindlen.
Is it any good?
Bemelmans skillfully places every adventure within a familiar routine. The girls leave the house at half past nine, and after some wild adventure, they are back at the table or tucked into bed. Children love to recite the beginning, "In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines ...," and the reassuring ending, "Thank the Lord you are well! And now go to sleep," said Miss Clavel."
A careful reader of Bemelmans will notice, however, that his rhyme and rhythm were often strained. The writing in the original story, "Madeline," is by far the best: It's briskly paced without any rough spots. In later stories, the rhyme is forced in a number of places, as in Madeline and the Gypsies, where Miss Clavel says, "Here is a freshly laundered shirty / It's better to be clean than dirty." But awkward rhymes are forgiven when you focus on Bemelmans's skill as an artist. His landscapes, with broad strokes and ornate details, capture the city so well. You can almost feel the rain in front of Notre Dame.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why (to quote Anna Quindlen's introduction) American children "who go to a day school, have never visited Paris or worn a uniform" love the little schoolgirl so much. What is it about Madeline that makes her such an appealing and enduring character? Does she have any traits that you admire?