Monday, October 19, 2015

'Madeline' by Ludwig Bemelmans


2015 Reading Challenge, Week 42 - A Book Based on or Turned into a TV Series.
 It was nice to choose a short book for this week of the challenge. It brings back memories of watching the animated TV series with my little 1990s kids. I wish it was still on TV.

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Madeline is one of the best-loved characters in children's literature. Set in picturesque Paris, this tale of a brave little girl's trip to the hospital was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1940 and has as much appeal today as it did then. The combination of a spirited heroine, timelessly appealing art, cheerful humor, and rhythmic text makes Madeline a perennial favorite with children of all ages.

It's basically a big poem with simple, gorgeous illustrations. In the TV series, there is lots of happy singing. The setting is such a great place, it's never even referred to as a school, although it's easy to imagine that's what it must be. Since the girls receive parcels in the post from their families, it's definitely not an orphanage. It's only ever called, 'the old house in Paris all covered with vines', and the director/teacher Miss Clavell, never seems to need to discipline anyone.

Madeline is the smallest of all, and presented as the most fearless and original in just a few short lines. Part of her charm is her bright attitude, finding interesting things everywhere, even when they might seem dull and mundane to others. Without any effort, Madeline can make the other girls envy her appendicitis instead of pity her. Proudly showing off the scar on her tummy is enough.

Their genuine affection for each other is a hallmark of Miss Clavell's little girls. I remember how they used to chant, 'We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all we love each other,' in the TV series. They regarded their neighbour, Pepito, as a nuisance until he showed that he does have feelings and became the sole boy in their adventures. He was just as picturesque, in his little tailored suits with lace collars and cuffs. The beloved dog Genevieve, who Madeline rescued from the river, was a faithful sidekick too.

Each story was always rounded off with, 'That's all there is, there isn't any more,' but we were always glad there would be, until one day when Madeline seemed to be taken off the air along with several other great kids' series from the 1990s. That's the topic of another blog post.

5 stars

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