Madeline and the Gypsies

Book review by
Jennifer Gennari, Common Sense Media
Madeline and the Gypsies Book Poster Image
Not the best in the series, but still a favorite.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The gypsies are stereotyped. Madeline needs help getting off the Ferris wheel, but Pepito just climbs down.

Violence & Scariness

The Gypsy Mama sews the children into a lion costume.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that while gypsy life seems fun, children may worry about the characters' safety. The art conveys the excitement of the circus. However, the story and verse are not Bemelmans's best.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bysneffie76 April 9, 2008

This was my very favorite of all the Madeline books as a child.

I just don't see an issue with the so-called stereotyping of the gypsies. Madeline and Pepito were rescued by them! They had fun performing in the circus... Continue reading

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What's the story?

A gypsy carnival and a sudden storm provide little schoolgirl Madeline and her friend, Pepito, a chance to experience gypsy life, which most readers will think looks like a lot of fun. The illustrations of horses, elephants, and bright-colored gypsy clothing are inviting, yet when a gypsy woman tries to keep them from Miss Clavel, young readers could be frightened.


Is it any good?

Kids will enjoy the story and colorful artwork, though adults may find the plot and rhyme less than perfect. Bemelmans makes some awkward word choices, such as shirty to rhyme with dirty. And the plot plays on the stereotype of gypsies stealing children, and it's especially frightening when the two are sewed up inside a lion's costume to keep Miss Clavel from finding them.

In this tale, Madeline and Pepito get to experience the gypsy life, learn some tricks, and, best of all, "never have to brush your teeth, and never-never to go to sleep." Ludwig Bemelmans's artwork is fanciful, with more color and chaos than usual, evoking the style of the gypsies. A particularly lovely night scene illustrates the outside of Mont Saint-Michel, and a busy train-station scene accompanies a reassuring verse about coming home after a journey.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the allure of the circus. What would it be like to travel and work with the lions, horses, and elephants? Would you miss having a permanent home?

Book details

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