Madeline at 75

It’s a big birthday week. My mother’s 84th  a grandson’s 1st, and Britain’s Prince George also turning one.

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.  bemelmans_flower_shop

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.

Rachelle as Miss Clavel

Rachelle as Miss Clavel

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.”



This entry was posted in Books, celebrations, Family, Grandchildren, History, Museums, galleries, New York City, parenting, Reading, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Madeline at 75

  1. Judy says:

    My daughter an I sooo loved this series! Happy Brithday to all!


  2. Huffygirl says:

    We loved reading Madeline with our kids; we thought our granddaughter Madeleine would share the same love, and bought her the doll and the book, but alas, so far she has not.


  3. What a happy And delightful post, Lisa. With all the sadness in the news it is refreshing to read a joyful post
    Congratulations to your Mom on her. 84th.


  4. I remember Madeline! Wow it goes that far back, huh? I love that his grandson continues the series and that you have a sister named after her! ❤
    Diana xo


  5. Madeline is such a lovely character. Happy birthday and congratulations to all. 🙂


  6. Happy Birthday to your mother and grandson! Oh and what memories you brought back. With my children, we began every night with Madeline and we recited the opening lines by heart. We just loved Madeline


  7. susanissima says:

    Happy Birthday all around! My daughter adored Madeline so much that there were days when we read each book MANY, MANY times but, of course, her favorite was the first, as you have so sweetly quoted, Lisa.


  8. Drjcwash says:

    Happy Birthday to all.


  9. Love that you went to the exhibit! So now I know what to read to my Caroline at 3!


  10. Fantastic. Brings back memories. Would love to have seen the exhibit


  11. Leah says:

    I loved introducing Sophie to the Madeline books. They are timeless.


  12. We loved those books as kids. It’s fun to know the author’s backstory.


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