This year also marks the 75th birthday of a very special little girl, beloved worldwide: Madeline. Immortalized by author/illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans , the character first appeared in 1939. The New York Historical Society is celebrating this classic (and the six books about her) and its creator.
My sister Naomi and I loved the book so much when little, we asked our parents to name the new baby, if a girl, Madeline. And they did.
Born in 1898 in the then Austria- Hungary, Bemelmans flunked out of school and failed working in the family hotel business. He arrived in New York in 1914, alone. He landed a job at the Ritz Hotel and began drawing, creating Madeline on the back of a menu at Pete’s Tavern in New York’s Gramercy Park.
I attended the exhibit with a friend, also a former educator and grandmother. We particularly enjoyed the reading room, where we plunked ourselves down on couches and read, noticing that at the back of each, there’s a list of all the places Madeline visits in the stories. Bemelman’s grandson John Bemelmans Marciano is continuing the legacy, creating Madeline and the Cats of Rome, Madeline at the White House, Madeline’s Tea Party and his latest, Madeline and the Old House in Paris.
Of course the museum shop couldn’t be missed.
And there’s a little girl who’ll be getting a Madeline doll and a collection of books for her 3rd birthday very soon. This grandmother can’t wait to snuggle up with her and read:
“In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines
In two straight lines they broke their bread
And brushed their teeth and went to bed.
They left the house at half past nine
In two straight lines in rain or shine—
The smallest one was Madeline.”