Thus the French connection continues, firstly with the well known Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans.
This is an introductory book in a long series, originally published in 1939, so Paris on the brink of World War II, but a captivating, charismatic, charming Paris is presented to us by Bemelmans. Although born in Europe, Ludwig Bemelmans came to the U.S. as a teenager and served in the US army. You are probably aware that his Grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, continued in his grandfather’s shoes, his latest book being Madeline in the White House, released earlier this year.
Anyhow, back to the smallest and most mischievous of orphans in Miss Clavel’s care, Madeline. The illustrations of the Opera, Notre Dame in the rain and of the children playing in the Luxembourg gardens simply invite one to visit Paris. The tale of Madeline is told in fluent, funny and suspenseful rhyme, sometimes in couplets, sometimes in triplets but tripping easily off the tongue and very appealing to children. Our heroine, the youngest of 12 girls overseen by the sister, is depicted as feisty and creative. Crisis comes when Madeline is whisked off in the middle of the night with an erupting appendix. But in true heroine style, instead of the victim in the hospital bed, she becomes the enviable centre of attention and soon the other 11 all wish for the same treatment. This children’s classic is a New York Times, Caldecott Honor Book and ALA Notable Children’s Book.
” In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines,
lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. “
The Cat Who Walked Across France by Kate Banks illustrated by Georg Hallensleben
The first 3 double-page spreads make me feel right at home – palm trees, dusty orange villas, distant peninsular across the Mediterranean bay…. This is where our Cat lives happily with his dear, old lady owner until the day she dies and some thoughtless person ships the cat with the lady’s belongings back to her hometown of Rouen in the North of France. Not surprisingly our hungry, pining, dislocated kitty runs away and there is a moving double page spread of the great cathedral and square in Rouen, as he looks for scraps with the other strays. Then he sets of on a long, long journey of well over 1000km (he makes a detour to Mont Blanc in the Alps) to return home.
Hallensberg creates wonderful, richly-coloured art work of typical French scenes. We visit: the cow-covered pastures of Normandy, the Eiffel tower in Paris, bridges over the rapid TGV trains, châteaux and snow-covered Swiss peaks, the Pond du Gard (I think) near Nîmes and Provence’s lavender fields. It is here in these fragrant fields that the Cat has the first memory stirrings. He arrives in the Mediterranean sea port, hungry and thin and enters his old domain….. well I leave you to read the end.
This book reminds me a lot of Little Bo in France, but for younger children. The back cover has a fun map of the Cat’s route down eastern France all the way to St Tropez. The text and pictures seem to merge into one another with ease and it is a gentle journey home that will enchant young children.
# 51 & 52 in the There’s a Book Read to Me Picture Book Challenge
N.B. For any of you France and literary lovers out there, if you have not yet seen it, may I recommend the latest Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris. It is not his typical genre and is very original, portraying Paris in all its romantic, artistic magic.