Madeline (book)

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AuthorLudwig Bemelmans
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's literature
Media typePrint (hardcover and paperback)

Madeline is a 1939 book written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans, the first in the book series, which inspired the Madeline media franchise. It is considered one of the major classics of children's literature.[1][2]

Madeline was named a Caldecott Honor Book for 1940.[3]


The story is set in Catholic boarding school in Paris, France. The opening rhyming sentences were repeated at the start of the subsequent books in the series:[4]

In an old house in Paris
That was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls
In two straight lines.

Madeline is the smallest of the girls. She is seven years old, and the only redhead. She is the bravest and most daring of the girls, flaunting at "the tiger in the zoo" and giving Miss Clavel a headache as she goes around the city doing all sorts of antics.[5]

One night, Miss Clavel wakes up, sensing something wrong, rushes to the girls bedroom and sees Madeline crying. Doctor Cohn is called, and takes Madeline to the hospital because she has a ruptured appendix. Hours later, Madeline finds herself recuperating. She is greeted by her classmates and Miss Clavel, who give her flowers, and a doll house from her Papa, and in return she shows them her scar. Madeline's classmates and Miss Clavel go home, but Miss Clavel wakes up again, to find the other little girls wailing, demanding to "have their appendix out too". Miss Clavel assures them that they're all well, and calls on them to go to sleep.


In 1952, this story was adapted into a 6-minute animation by United Productions of America. The film was nominated for the 1952 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. In 2013 it became available for viewing and download (at no cost) at the Internet Archive.[6]


  1. ^ "Top 100 Picture Books #47: Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans". School Library Journal. May 29, 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  2. ^ Edward Rothstein (July 3, 2014). "At 75, Still Stepping Out of Line Ludwig Bemelmans's Madeline Celebrates a Milestone". New York Times. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  3. ^ "Madeline, 1940 Caldecott Honor Book". American Library Association. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  4. ^ "At 75 She's Doing Fine; Kids Still Love Their 'Madeline'". NPR. October 11, 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Madeline". Scholastic Books. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  6. ^ Bemelmans, Ludwig (1 January 1955). "Madeline". United Productions of America, Released by International Film Bureau. Retrieved 7 December 2016.

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