Next year, one of my favorite fictional little girls turns 75. But this year, John Bemelmans Marciano, the grandson of original Madeline author Ludwig Bemelmans, has a new Madeline book coming out, so we begin the celebration now. Which is fine – if I can have an entire birthday weekend, surely 75 year old Madeline deserves to celebrate an entire birthday year! (thanks for the misleading Tumbr post, NPR!)
Listening this morning to NPR’s Morning Edition, I learned a few things about this iconic character. People often confuse her boarding school with an orphanage. (but her parents send lavish gifts to cheer her up after she has her appendix removed, so I knew that. Still, can you imagine parents not being around for surgery today? Was that a thing way back when? It even seems weird to have a 5 year old sent off to boarding school, but I guess that’s a thing, too). Today I learned that Miss Clavel was not a nun. Seriously? What’s up with the habit? Apparently, she was a nurse. And, how many of you realized that Madeline is not French? How cool would it have been if you spent your childhood in school in Paris? And if she’s not French, then where is she from?
Can you imagine the mischievous little yellow hatted redhead at 75? What sort of amazing stories would she have to tell? I wonder… Did she stay in Paris and attend the Sorbonne? Did she traipse across The Continent, with Genevieve and a huge LV steamer trunk in tow, breaking hearts and facing down tigers in the zoo in every country? What about Love? Family?
Remember how, through the power of our heroine’s love and friendship, the very naughty and arrogant Black Hat, Pepito changed his evil ways? What if, in a Before Sunrise//Before Sunset twist of fate, she hooked up again with her Bad Boy again? This idea, of them meeting again as young adults – Linklater meets Bemelmans! – is so romantic and très intrigante! (and for our purposes here, apparently quite random). I love Before Sunrise , sigh.
At 75, she’d have a lifetime of memories to share. Now imagine them told in delightful rhyme, and illustrated by Bemelmans.
Rhymes like this one, from Madeline’s Rescue:
Madeline jumped on a chair.
“Lord Cucuface,” she cried, “beware!”
“Miss Genevieve, noblest dog in France,
“You shall have your VEN-GE-ANCE!”
Excuse me while I indulge in a little LitGeek Swoon. Because really, how could you expect any less from an author who rhymes “biscuits, milk and beef” with “Genevieve”? And how perfect is the name, Lord Cucuface? He’s totally a cucuface, putting poor Genevieve out on the streets like that. (SPOILER ALERT) Especially in her delicate condition…
I’d rather Thing Two wish for a trip to Paris than to Disney, and in that, these books have succeeded. (well, between that and her deeply ingrained fear of puppets and costumed characters, I consider it a win).
Happy Birthday, dear Madeline! I wish you many, many more years of charming little girls everywhere.
List of Madeline’s books:
Madeline and the Bad Hat
Madeline in London
Madeline and the Gypsies
new books by John Bemelmans Marciano
Madeline in America
Madeline Loves Animals
Madeline Says Merci
Madeline and the Cats of Rome
Madeline at the White House
Madeline and the Old House in Paris