“Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans


Taking city trips is like drinking good wine. Either it makes you tired or you  just want more.  What an opening for a post on children’s books, right? Appalling! Delete. Let’s start again. City trips are like ice-cream. There is always a surprising new flavor to taste. And if you are not up for experimenting and risking getting disappointed, you can always go for something tried out and familiar.  Mint-chocolate-chip anyone? I can’t have enough ice-cream and I can’t have enough city trips.  (And I’ve passed both passions on to our son, by the way.) I like seeing new towns and I don’t mind coming back to  the same places. They never look the same anyway and there is always a new hidden gem to discover. From a building or a museum to a curious boutique or a park. And the best is when I can finally put away the city map,  step away from the main tourist route and finally start to see, hear, eat… the  city the way only the locals do.

With “Madeline” everyone can feel like a local in… Paris!

Madeline was smallest out of twelve girls living in a house covered with vines. Every day, sun or rain, Miss Clavel would take the girls for a walk. They would go skating in winter or to the ZOO in the summer. At night all the girls would sleep in their twelve beds neatly arranged in two rows . One night, Madeline would just not stop crying.  It was her appendix. Madeline had to go to the hospital.   And although appendicitis is not contagious,  somehow , by the following night, all eleven girls appeared to be in excruciating pain… Go figure! 

Or rather, go ahead and read this cutely rhymed, amusing classic with your children, however far away from seeing Paris you are. The plot might appear trivial, but somehow it is quite engaging and the character so endearing. The Parisian setting adds a lot,  I must say.  Are the ink drawings purely a background to the story, or do they play the main role? Either way, they basically take the reader on a virtual city tour. You  can’t help recognizing the main landmarks, like the majestic Notre Dame, The Louvre or The Eiffel Tower.

And if you enjoyed visiting Paris with little  Madeline, you might trust her as your tour guide to another great European city. “Madeline in London” is a suitable read before you go to visit the Queen of England. Or the three generations of future kings.

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