Allison's Book Bag

Mad About Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Posted on: December 19, 2010

Meet Madeline! She lives in an old house in Paris that is covered with vines and is one of twelve little girls. As we soon discover, Madeline might be the smallest of the girls but she is also brave and adventurous. She is not afraid of mice, loves winter, snow, and ice, and says “Pooh-hooh” to a tiger at the zoo. Two of the girls’ adventures happen right in the house. The other four happen after the girls set out at nine in two straight lines to explore Paris. You can read all six adventures in Mad About Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans.

In the first story, simply titled Madeline, we are introduced to the girls and their guardian Miss Clavel. One night Miss Clavel wakes to realize something is wrong and discovers Madeline needs to have her appendix taken out. Madeline is rushed to the hospital, where she has surgery, is left with a scar, receives lots of flowers, and has many visitors. The cutest part is when Miss Clavel wakes a second time to realize something is wrong and is told by the girls that they too want to have their appendix removed.

Five more stories follow, all longer than the first except for the last which is a fantastical Christmas tale. In Bad Hat, the Spanish Ambassador moves in next door. He has a son Pepito who in the summer slings rocks at the girls and in the winter knocks them all down as he skates. Even worse, one day he builds a guillotine for chopping off heads of chickens. Another day, he traps a cat in a bag to release to the dogs. How will the girls reform him?

In Madeline’s Rescue, our heroine slips and falls off a bridge but is rescued by a dog. The girls keep the dog and name her Genevieve. We think the biggest dilemma will be who will the dog sleep with, but then the board of trustees visit for an inspection. They decide a dog is not proper and must go. Now what will the girls do?

In Madeline and the Gypsies, bad boy Pepito invites the twelve girls to a gypsy carnival. At the end of the day, when everyone piles into a taxi, Madeline and Pepito are accidentally left behind on the top of the ferris wheel. Gypsies rescue them and treat them as their own children, even teaching them carnival tricks. Question is: Who will rescue the children from the gypsies?

Madeline in London also involves reformed boy Pepito. His family relocates to London, where Pepito is lonely and begins to pine away without friends. The Spanish Ambassador invites Miss Clavel and the girls to London. They fly there to celebrate Pepito’s birthday, but have no money for a gift. They eventually find a perfect gift, but this leads to yet more mishaps.

Wrapping up the collection is Madeline’s Christmas. The funniest part lays in this description: “It was the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even the mouse. For like everyone else in that house which was odd, the poor mouse was in bed with a cold.” One night a rug merchant knocks at the door. Madeline buys twelve rugs from him for their ice-cold morning feet. Only later, the rug merchant realizes that he too will be cold without those rugs. He wants to get them back–but will he?

I bought Mad About Madeline secondhand at a bookstore. Its pages have yellow stains, but the wear of the book didn’t detract from the charm of the book. Every story is told in rhyme and is illustrated with bold paintings, interspersed with simple line drawings. The stories make a fun read, while Madeline remains a perfect role model from the day she burst on the book scene in the 1930s to today when we still need small girls with big hearts.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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