It is tribute season where you look back on the year that has passed and think of those who have passed too. We lost some funny people this year. So, then you think of prayer or of some kind of divine intervention. Were they meant to die now or was it a mere coincidence? What is a coincidence anyway? related by chance. For example, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both signed The Declaration of Independence, both became Presidents of the United States and both died on the same day. Not on any day but on July 4th and not on different years but the same year on the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
I thought that it was a coincidence that I kept bumping into of all things Madeline books for little girls and then I found out that it is the 75th Anniversary of the books written by Ludwig Bemelmans. They all start off the same way and it is so cute to see that 8 year old girl just rattle it off by memory. “In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. In the straight lines they broke their bread and brushed their teeth and went to bed. In two straight lines in rain or shine. The smallest one was Madeline. For generations of children, those beginning lines began adventures for the girls that was never harsh or mean as in the Annie story. These orphan girls were always out and about on some fun adventure.
It all started in 1939 and then came about 14 Million copies sold. Madeline is still popular because she is every girl. She is brave, adventurous and funny and is what every little American girl wants to be even today. What a coincidence? People think she is French but no she is an American girl who was in a French boarding school. People think that Miss Clavel is a nun and she is not. The best part about the books is that there are no classrooms. The girls in their straight lines are out seeing the world and having adventures while traveling through Europe meeting Ambassadors, gypsies and magicians. It is the tale of a girl who gets herself in and out of trouble.
The grandson of the author is now trying to resurrect the Madeline series by publishing new products and books. His grandfather was from Austria who was always running away at school. At 16 years old he had to choose going to reform school or going to America. He chose America and found work at the Ritz Hotel in New York City and was bored. He would sketch on napkins Madeline and some characters for fun. He was a self - taught artist and drew all the illustrations in his books. He then married Madeline and had a daughter Barbara. By coincidence once he was in the hospital and met a little girl who showed him her appendix scar and the character grew in his mind.
The first book was an immediate success and five more books followed. Jacqueline Kennedy noticed the books and further promoted them while her little girl was growing up in 1961 Ludwig Bemelmans died in 1962 and never wrote the book he discussed with Jacqueline about a possible new book of Madeline visiting the White House. There was a movie made in 1998 and now there is a Broadway show. There is no coincidence that 15 years ago that his grandson wrote the Washington visit book 15 years ago. I love that she is brave and not afraid of experiencing the ups and down of life. She is a little girl who never grows old.
At the end of the adventure. Miss Clavel says, “goodnight little girls’ . Thank the Lord you are well and now go to sleep” said Miss Clavel and she turned off the light and closed the door and that is all there is. There isn’t anymore.