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4.8 out of 5 stars
Madeline
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80 of 85 people found the following review helpful
I have had several occasions to read "Madeline" over the years, yet had never read anything about her. So learning that she had celebrated her 60th birthday was something of a surprise because I did not think of this first story of that irrepressible little girl as something that was first published on the eve of World War II. But the bigger surprise was learning that "Madeline" was not originally written and published in France, which I had always assumed was the case. That means all of those times I was reading this book and wondering what it would read like in the orignal French, I was completely off the mark. Live and learn.

Ludwig Bemelmans was actually born in 1898 in that part of the Tyrol which is now known as Merano, Italy, and came to the United States in 1914. A painter and illustrator, Bemelmans contributed covers to "The New Yorker," and also started writing fiction. His first children's book, "Hansi," was published in 1934. A world traveler and true cosmopolite, Bemelmans wrote and illustrated "Madeline" in 1939 but had trouble finding a publisher because most editors felt that despite its humorous verse and simple artwork the book was too sophisticated for children (Soon & Schuster originally published the book, although the rest of the series would be published by Viking, Bemelmans usual publisher). Bemelmans named his most popular creation for his wife, Madeleine Freund, whom he had married in 1935. They had a daughter named Barbara, who would provide inspiration for some of the Madeline books.

Thinking that this book was originally written and published in France is a reasonable conclusion given all of the Paris scenes Bemelmans pictures in his book. You have the Eiffel Tower on the cover and in one of the illustrations, the lady feeding the horse is in front of the Paris Opera House, the gendarme chases the jewel thief across the Place Vendome, the wounded soldier is at the Hotel des Invalides, the children visit Notre Dame in the rain and the Gardens at the Luxembourg on the sunny day, they sake in front of the Church of the Sacre Coeur, and the man feeding the birds is in the Tuileries Gardens which face the Louvre. These settings comprise part of the book's enduring charm. I always remember the yellow pages that represent "the old house in Paris that was covered with vines," especially since yellow is also the color of the hats, coats, and often the dresses that the "twelve little girls in two straight lines" wear. Yellow is also the color of Madeline's hair in this one, although that will change in future books. But Bemelmans also takes full advantage of the complete palette when he does the scenes that happen out and about Paris (and children like him because he colors outside the lines, just like they do).

Still, in the end the prime attraction is Madeline, who is the smallest one of the twelve girls. But Madeline "was not afraid of mice," just said "Pooh-pooh" to the tiger in the zoo, and knew how to frighten Miss Clavel more than anybody else. Madeline is smart, says what she thinks, and is she is a bit disobedient that is just another reason to love her. After all, she is part of a literary family of similar young girls that go back to Anne Shirley in the "Anne of Green Gables" books and Jo March in "Little Women" (Age them and I suppose you end up with Scarlett O'Hara). Perhaps not all little girls would be as brave as Madeline when they are rushed out to the hospital in the middle of the night for an emergency appendectomy, but I suspect most young girls would like to think that they would be as brave and that they would show off the scar on their stomach with as much élan as Madeline.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 1999
A short children's story about a young girl who lives with eleven other girls in a home in Paris and who has to go to the hospital to have her appendix removed. It was a 1940 Caldecott Honor book (i.e., a runner-up to the Medal winner) for best illustration in a book for children. This book, and others in the Madeline series, have become classics in children literature and every serious student of children literature should have it on their shelves. Children love these books.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2002
As a child, some of my favorite books were the Madeline stories. This is the first in the series, and it sets a wonderful tone. The illustrations are wonderful, and it's fun to see illustrations of actual Parisian landmarks such as the Opera, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Tulleries. The story is fun, fast and catchy, and I used to wish that I was one of the little girls standing amongst the two straight lines lead by Miss Clavel.
This book is not just for little girls. Boys can enjoy the story as well.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2001
Although "Madeline" probably needs no introduction, this classic story set in Paris is about a Miss Clavel and twelve little girls. The smallest girl is Madeline, who is brave and does not even get scared of a lion in the zoo. Madeline scares Miss Clavel when one night she... Ludwig Bemelmans does a great job of corresponding the illustrations to the content of the story. The scene where Madeline is saying "pooh-pooh" to the lion, it has more color than other pages making it exciting. The illustrations compliment the plot and setting of the story by giving each page a mood that helps create the story. The rythem and humor in this book will appeal to most children. I found when reading it to my daughter we both giggled at the many rhymes which Ludwig Bemelmans chose as the characteristic to tell this story in. I would reccomend this book for readers at the preschool age up to age eight or so. For the younger reader it has a great rythem and illustrations that keep the eye interested. For the older reader the story is equally interesting with a slight hint of suspence. Ludwig Bemelmans drawing's of the Opera, Notre Dame in the rain and of the children playing in the Luxembourg gardens give a classic picture of Paris. The illustrations coupled with the easy flow of the story and rhyme will allow this book to be enjoyed in a timeless fashion! DawnENGL340 at SJC
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2000
Young boys like this too. I think too often we steer boys away from books with girl protagonists, and that attitude stays with them. A 3 to 5 year old boy might delight in the rhymes just as much as a girl of that age. Seeing girls often develop language skills earlier, the use of books such as these with well-controlled, thoughtful use of language is useful for boys too! I loved Madeline (I'm over 40) and thought the illustrations aren't groovy - it's tough in the computer age! - they are quite whimsically delightful.
Kids I know like this book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2003
Ever since I was old enough to read I've loved Madeline! I remember going to the library and checking out this book and all the other ones in the series (Madeline and the bad hat, Madeline to the rescue...) I was always disappointed that they were checked out. I am 21 years old now and still have an infactuation with Madeline! She is a great role model for children of all ages and the stories and lessons learned from them stick with you!
I'd recommend this book for new mothers and small children alike!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
"In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines,
lived twelve little girls in two straight lines."

Each of the several Madeline books starts with this simple and charming little rhyme. The first book, the one being reviewed here, was written in 1939 and was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1940, and so it should have been!

I note in reading some of the fine reviews here that folks have been wondering how this book, which its obvious setting in Paris, would sound in French. Well, we may never know due to the fact that Ludwig Bemeimans wrote this in the United States in English.

This, at first glance, appears to be an odd little book; both textually and artistic. Let me tell you though, as you read this work, over and over and over again to your kids, you will find that it has an almost hypnotic charm about it. And make no mistake, whether they want to admit to it or not, little boys like this tale just as much as little girls. I think all kids can relate to the bravery, spunk, and feistiness of Madeline; the littlest girl in her class who is not afraid of ANYTING, including mice, tigers and hospital stays!

The entire text is in verse - delightful verse I might add. I noted that some have pointed out that some of the rhymes do not rhyme. This is not so. When the reader is reading this thing, certain words must be spoken with a slight French accent. When you do that, then all the words rhyme.

Anyway, for me the art work in this book is as exciting as the text. There is something tremendously appealing about it is a sort of off-beat manner. Bemeimans was an excellent illustrator whose work appeared in and on several old copies of the New Yorker and other leading magazines of his day. Even though some of the illustrations in this book may appear simple, they are actually quite complex - Bemjeimans knew what he was doing and all was calculated. His limited pallette only adds to the charm of the pictures.

This one was, is and I suspect always well be a children's classic. Thank goodness it and the other Madeline books are still in print and available.

NOTE: Reviewing the Madeline books on Amazon is like reviewing the Beatrix Potter books - difficult. Amazon has seen fit to mix editions and mix the reviews of different editions to the point that it is difficult to tell just what you are trying to review. If you will note the product description on this particular item reads as if it is selling Madeline Dolls...go figure. I tell you this simply to warn readers and possible buyers to read carefully and be sure you order the book you think you are ordering.

Don Blankenship
The Ozarks
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 1999
Our daughter 4th birthday present from a friend of mine who grew up on Madeline too. Now our girl is already 8 years old and still reads Madeline. And she learns how to write her own poems following Ludwig's example. After 4 years, it is still her favourite book by her bedside.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2004
MADELINE is definitely my 3yrs.old daughter's favorite character.I got this copy as a free gift from Vermont Council of Humanities(Thanks a lot to them)and ever since then,this little girl from Paris has captured our hearts.I intend to keep all the books by Ludwig Bemelmans as a part of our collection.Not only the books...the Madeline rag-doll is also a must for any Madeline fans!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Madeline is one of twelve girls at a Parisian boarding school, who shows herself to be exceptional through daring actions such as crossing a bridge on the rail, while the other girls walk sedately in their line. The twelve girls' ordered, convivial life is well portrayed in unique illustrations and skillful writing which emphasize dramatic action rather than description. The great drama of this story is Madeline's appendicitis and subsequent visit to the hospital. The story ends in humor, with eleven little girls returning home from a visit there, and crying to have appendicitis so they can enjoy the candy and toys that Madeline received.

The Madeline books have been loved by children for seventy years, for good reason. Their engaging illustrations, careful writing, and subtle humor combine to present a secure and romantic world that is very appealing.
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