Madeline and the Gypsies

Not the best in the series, but still a favorite.

What parents need to know

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.

Not applicable

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.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

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?


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.

Unfortunately, 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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Ludwig Bemelmans
Illustrator:Ludwig Bemelmans
Genre:Picture Book
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:September 11, 1959
Number of pages:59
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7

This review of Madeline and the Gypsies was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Adult Written bysneffie76 April 9, 2008
age 0+

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 and living with the gypsies! The gypsy mama loved them! It's a lovely imaginative book with beautiful pictures and text.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass