Madeline has always been a character I have held in my heart. She is feisty, adventurous, and kind. The oil painting pictures of twelve little girls in two straight lines tromping through perfectly Parisian scenes are forever etched in my mind. Here are five things about Madeline and author Ludwig Bemelmans that I didn't know until now.
Bemelmans was a renaissance man with a rocky start. A father that left his mother for their nanny, several grade school expulsions, getting deported to America because he may or may not have shot a man - old Ludwig had a rough go. His first attempts at writing were rejected by magazines and publishers until Madeline was picked up for publication in 1939. He would go on to rise in the art world to be equally successful as a painter and a writer.
Madeline broke the gender mold for her time. Even today, so many people will say the old adage, "boys will be boys!" In other words, when boys are spunky and a tad mischievous, it is just a socially acceptable part of their nature. When girls act the same way, some might not see it as a positive, especially in the 1940s. Madeline is unique for her adventurous and strong personality. She is opinionated, strong willed, and unlike most of the literary females in picture books of the time. She walks across that stone bridge wall, scaring Miss Clavel, and breaking all the rules society placed on her gender.
Aristotle Onassis (Mr. Jackie O) commissioned Bemelmans to paint 15 Madeline murals for the playroom of his yacht, and in 1999, the murals sold for almost a million dollars.
It was very important to Bemelmans to show respect to his young audience and never write down to them. He is quoted, "We are writing for children, but not for idiots."
The last lines of every Madeline story spoken by Miss Clavel were taken from actress Ethel Barrymore. Drew Barrymore's great aunt was famous for ending her shows with the lines, "That's all there is. There isn't anymore."
I love reading the stories behind the stories, especially when I find that children's books that I have loved for so long have a fascinating history! What do you think? What other beloved kids books have a colorful heritage?