A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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.