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The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant Hardcover – September 12, 1937

96 customer reviews
Book 1 of 57 in the Babar Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

The Story of Babar--the early adventures of the enduring, endearing elephant--was written in 1931 by French writer Jean de Brunhoff (1899-1937). Since then, it has been translated into at least 12 languages. It's amazing how much can happen to one little elephant in the course of one little book: Babar loses his mother to a hunter, wanders into the city, gets a new wardrobe, becomes the hit of high society, marries his cousin Céleste (totally acceptable in contemporary Elephantine society), and is crowned King of the Elephants.

The Story of Babar is essentially the tale of a country boy who comes to the city and, while there, comes of age. In the end, he returns home to share his knowledge and experiences with family and friends. The beautiful, delightfully detailed illustrations--de Brunhoff was a painter by trade--never fail to amuse. (Although none of the characters seem to notice, the sight of Babar in a suit leaning against the mantel while he regales his audience with tales of the jungle is plainly hilarious.) All of the Babar books are notable for their ability to tell larger stories with simplicity and style, and The Story of Babar is no exception. Potentially troubling moments--the death of Babar's mother, for example--are handled with taste, emphasizing Babar's unique gift for uncovering a silver lining in the most persistent of clouds. (Ages 4 to 8, though the cursive writing makes it best for reading aloud.)


"With many absurd and funny pictures, these tales of the popular elephant furnish hours of enjoyment to the young person."--Elementary English

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 460L (What's this?)
  • Series: Babar (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 56 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (1961)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394805755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394805757
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 0.4 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on February 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Thank God for the French speakers of the world. Were it not for them, Babar might not have ever been created and we would have to live in a wretched Babar-less world. As it is, however, we are blessed to have this delightful story at our fingertips at any time. The story of Babar was originally published in 1933, and it has stood the test of time with dignity and flair.
The story of Babar is simple. After his mother is shot by a cruel hunter, the little elephant runs away to a metropolitan city. Once there, he is taken under the wing of a kindly older lady. Babar then proceeds to become the greatest dandy of children's literature today. Here is the section I love the most:
"Babar then buys himself: A shirt with a collar and tie, a suit of a becoming shade of green, then a handsome derby hat, and also shoes with spats".
Contrary to popular thought, an elephant in spats is the most dignified thing in the world. With these purchases Babar has transformed himself from rural rube to the original metrosexual. He becomes cultured, learning the rudimentary aspects of human civilization while regaling party guests with his tales of the forest (note his pin-striped pants and casual dinner jacket). Eventually Babar is lured back to his jungle home and is swiftly crowned King of the elephants.
The 1933 setting in which Babar acclimatizes himself has grown more charming over the years. And most remarkably? Most older picture books contain at least one racial stereotype somewhere in the midst of a picture. Not so our darling "Babar". I feel safe in saying that you might search through any future adventure of the winsome elephant and not stumble across a single picture or piece of writing that causes you a twenty-first century gasp of disgust.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By K. Bennett on June 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ah, to be King of the Elephants. Not only do you get to live in the palace in Celesteville, but you also get to rewrite your life story. In the original books, Babar was an ordinary elephant who was orphaned at a young age and went to seek his fortune in the city before he returned and was chosen to be king. In the newer video series that my kids brought home from the library the other day, Babar recounts his adventures as a young prince growing up in the palace. And they say elephants never forget!
The original story is fairly simple. After a hunter kills his mother, Babar runs away until he comes to a city. As luck would have it, one of the first people he meets is a lady who loves to spend money on young elephants. Soon Babar has a dashing new wardrobe, a private tutor, and elegant friends. Life would be wonderful if he weren't so homesick. When his two cousins show up, Babar decides to go back home with them. The elders of the elephant herd decide that Babar, with his civilized ways, should become their king.
There's a school of thought that criticizes the Babar stories as colonialist. But then, most of children's literature written before the 1970s isn't exactly politically correct, is it? Do you tell your children that Babar is a tool of the imperialist establishment, or do you point out what a wonderful culture the elephants built when they banded together to build Celesteville, their capital city? Or do you just read the stories for pure enjoyment?
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 1999
Format: Library Binding Verified Purchase
My children adored this book from a very early age due to the charm of the text and the pictures. The bon-bons, the kind old lady, the suit of clothes, all create a Parisian fantasy for the big, shy Babar. My kids are now high-schoolers and take French. I like to think it was due to those first images of the Tour Eiffel in this book! Every kid should have this delightful story. My high schoolers still enjoy a trip down memory lane once in awhile with Babar.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ann Azuma on May 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have fond memories of tracing my fingers over the elephants, enjoined trunk to tail, which walked over the back and front of our huge BABAR book. Thanks to a thoughtful baby gift from my cousin, I continue to do so, with my two sons. We enjoy finding Babar among the other little elephants and weep together over his mother`s cruel demise. We continue to delight at his resilience and enjoy with him his first experiences with people things, and always rejoice at his good fortune and friends.
While there are some problematic elements, ( as when the hunter shoots Babar`s mother or when he marries his cousin,) please keep in mind when this was written and do not let this stop you from sharing this classic with your young ones. Parents and caretakers should seize this great opportunity to talk with them while addressing the issues. There are many positive aspects to the story and the characters, themselves. Delightfully illustrated and charmingly told, the one drawback is that the text, while charming for adults reading aloud, can be an obstacle to early readers.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is about an elephant's travels after the death of his mother-- his search for independence and his return home. He takes what he has learned on his travels and offers it to the other animals in the forest. The book teaches that you can overcome aversity and make good things happen by working hard. Babar gets beyond the death of his mother by going to the city, studying and by learning how to act in society. I like the book because it is well written and has excellent pictures. It also has a strong message and teaches you a lot about the ways of the world. I also like the way that elephants are used to teach the message.
---- Makki Russo (Age 7)----
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