Madeline in London


Really, what’s not to love about Madeline? I discovered this book in a charity shop years ago when my kids were still really little and was drawn by the fabulous vintage drawings (Bemelmans published his Madeline books between 1939 and 1961), every colour double-spread page alternating with yellow, black and grey pictures. So I was very happy when I discovered there are a number of Madeline books, for example Madeline and the Gypsies and Madeline’s Rescue and always kept an eye out for them at the local library. Each of the books starts with the same words,  In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines…the smallest one was Madeline.


Madeline is a brave, rambunctious little girl who is cared for, along with the other girls, by a nun named Miss Clavel. Whilst the other eleven little girls do as they are told, Madeline’s rebelliousness always seems to be getting her into fixes, but it’s impossible not to admire her big, open-hearted, adventurous spirit.


In this story, Miss Clavel and the girls go to London to pay a visit to a little boy named Pepito, the son of the Spanish ambassador who used to live next door to them in Paris and has now moved to London and is pining for his friends.


They buy Pepito a horse for his birthday present, but he and Madeline go missing whilst riding the horse, so Miss Clavel and the eleven remaining girls take to the streets of London in hot pursuit of them.


Madeline in London is a celebration of England’s capital city, rendered in beautiful, bold pictures and gently rhyming verse. A Madeline book is a must for a child’s library, and would also make a wonderful gift.

Madeline’s creator, Ludwig Bemelmans, who was originally from Austria but settled in the USA. Legend has it that, whilst working at a hotel in Austria, he shot and seriously wounded a waiter following an altercation. Given the choice of reform school and emigration to the US, he chose the latter!

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