Monday, January 30, 2023

Madeline & the Gypsies

 Madeline and the Gypsies (1958) by Ludwig Bemelmans

Madeline is a spunky little redhead who is constantly getting into the most interesting predicaments and having adventures that must have caused poor Miss Clavel to have gray hair long before her time. In this particular adventure, Miss Clavel takes the "twelve little girls in two straight lines" plus their neighbor Pepito (the Spanish ambassador's son) to the gypsy carnival where there are rides and circus-like acts and much excitement for the children. In the middle of their outing there is a sudden storm and Miss Clavell and the children rush back to the convent--only to find that Madeline and Pepito are not with them. When the storm came on the Ferris wheel was stopped and the two children were stranded at the top of the wheel. The rest of the story features Madeline and Pepito's adventures with the gypsy carnival--taking part in a horse-riding act and even appearing as a lion--before Miss Clavell and eleven little girls arrive to take them home.

This particular installment of the Madeline stories appears on the American Library Association's "Top 100 Most Banned & Challenge Books: 2010-2019" presumably because of the term gypsy and the depiction of the gypsy mama as being willing to run off with the children and even disguise them in the lion costume to prevent them from being found. I can only say that when I read these stories as a child, the only thing I had in mind was the adventure--watching Madeline and Pepito have the chance to join the circus (so to speak) and travel with the caravan for a short time before returning safely home to Paris. I don't think I gave much thought to how the people they wound up with were categorized. The illustrations stuck in my mind as circus-related--not gypsy-related. But now as an adult I can certainly see the enforcement of a negative view of the Romani people--which is unfortunate because the story is full of adventure and lovely illustrations that bring back memories of reading when I was young. 

My rating for the story when I first read it would have been four stars (though I never entered it in my reading log or gave it a rating). I loved Madeline and reading about her adventures and always had great fun with these stories. The illustrations were always fun and eye-catching. Reading it now, I will deduct a star for the negative connotations, but the nostalgia and eye-catching illustrations still have a strong pull. 

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