"In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. The smallest one was Madeline.” The words spark warm feelings in those of us who, years ago, haunted the library shelves looking for any copies of the classic Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans (1898-1962). The books remain just as popular with the current picture book set. Look for them at the Monrovia Public Library.
Madeline was published in 1939 and this year the book celebrates its 75th anniversary. The Austrian-born author moved to America after WWI and his first children’s book debuted in 1934. His publisher made an incredible error when he rejected Madeline and it was soon chosen by another publisher. Bemelmans eventually wrote and illustrated 5 titles starring the intrepid French school girl and his books have sold millions. The author, who served in the U.S. Army, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Written in rhyme, all of these stories are about a Parisian boarding school supervised by nuns who encourage order. Madeline, of course, is the one spunky girl continually stepping out of line to embrace new adventures. Who cannot forget when she confronted a jungle beast? “And to the tiger in the zoo Madeline just said pooh pooh.” Adults can check out Madeline, Madeline’s Rescue, Madeline and the Bad Hat, Madeline and the Gypsies, Madeline in London, read them, and then have the pleasure of sharing them with a new generation of fans.