Sending Madeline to the White House is an idea that my grandfather cooked up with his friend, Jacqueline Kennedy. In a series of letters to the First Lady, he imagined a book in which Madeline visits Caroline, or something like that. He even suggested that the Mrs. Kennedy write the words and he would do the pictures. At the time, my grandfather was still working on Madeline and the Magician, a book that he assured her he would finish shortly.
Sadly, he never did. My grandfather died in 1962, still at work on the Magician story. The book was to end with Miss Clavel taking in a stray cat who winds up being the Magician in disguise. In what might be one of the last drawings my grandfather ever did, the cat is wearing the magician's fez, surrounded by Madeline and the girls.
I've always imagined that picture to be the truth of it--that my grandfather is a kind of magician who has lives on alongside Madeline and her friends. His body itself is buried in Arlington Cemetery. Although born in Europe, my grandfather came to the U.S. as a teenager and proudly served in the army, and always wanted to be buried in a soldier's grave in the nation's capital.
For Madeline at the White House I have tried to weave all of these threads together: the book my grandfather never finished, the one he never began, and his feelings for the country he called home. So Madeline goes and visits a little girl named Candle whose father is the busiest man in the world, has fun at the White House Easter Egg Roll, and goes on a magic carpet ride of Washington conducted by a rabbit wearing a fez.
I hope you like it.
John Bemelmans Marciano