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Madeline Comes Stateside in New Book

02/21/2011 at 02:00 PM ET
Courtesy Penguin Group

If you didn’t grow up reading Madeline books, chances are your children did.

The whimsical stories, written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans, followed petite Parisian Madeline and her classmates as they walked “in two straight lines” throughout the French city.

In the series’ latest installment, Madeline at the White House ($18), Bemelmans’ grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano (below), brings the little girls to Washington, D.C., where they visit the lonely daughter of the U.S. President at the White House on Easter.

“My grandfather was friends with Jacqueline Kennedy,” Marciano explains to PEOPLE Moms & Babies.

“When I was researching for a different book, I came across these letters they’d exchanged, many of which are now in the Kennedy library, about a book about a white mouse in the White House, or instead, Madeline visits Caroline [Kennedy].”

Sadly, Bemelmans passed away before any decisions could be made — he’d even suggested the First Lady could write the text, and he’d illustrate — so the idea never came to fruition.

After mentioning the concept to his publisher, Marciano decided to make it his own.

“My publisher thought it’d be such a great thing to bring Madeline to Washington, and it ties so many things together,” he says. “My grandfather immigrated to the United States when he was 15, served in the army in World War I and loved Europe. But he also loved this country — he’s buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and loved the pageantry of Washington.”

So Marciano got to work researching, studying up on the Kennedy era and the goings-on inside the White House.

Courtesy Penguin Group

In the book, available now, First Daughter Candle gets a visit from Madeline, her classmates and Miss Clavel.

The group participates in the storied White House Easter Egg Roll, and fills up on yummy chocolates and cakes. Madeline and Candle have some special bonding time, too, flying over the sights of D.C. at nighttime.

Though the book’s idea came from the Kennedy family, Marciano says Candle isn’t based on Caroline.

“She and her brother had a magical existence in the White House,” he shares. “It was in my mind, certainly, but I think that they were about as well-loved as any kids.”

Marciano, who has a 20-month-old daughter, was inspired to continue his grandfather’s legacy after coming across some of Bemelmans’ unpublished material at his grandmother’s house 12 years ago.

“That gave me the idea of continuing on with the books,” he shares. “It’s hard in some ways, because I feel the need to stay very close to the originals. But for me, it’s important that these books don’t ever go away.”

Kate Hogan

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Showing 10 comments

Rebecca on

I think its funny that this book is coming out now when Madeline McCann (An English girl kidnapped from a holiday resort in Portugal) is thought to have been smuggled to America, good timing there.

klutzy_girl on

Oh, I wasn’t aware these books were still being published! I was just thinking about them the other day, too.

Awesome interview!

Minami86 on

I’m pretty sure Madeline came to America before. She visited New York City on the TV show! Was that a book too or just in the show? I LOVE Madeline! When I have kids, I’m totally buying the books again to read them to my little ones! Even though I’m 24, I have songs from Madeline on my iPod & I have the live action movie. I’m not ashamed to love my childhood! It’s better than a majority of what’s on TV now.

Kay on

I don’t understand what Rebecca thinks is the connection between the Madeline books and Madeleine McCann, other than the similarity of the names. Little Madeleine disappeared four years ago. The newest Madeline book has been in the works since the Kennedy era. I don’t see any connection at all.

MLJ on

So @ Rebecca, you’re implying that because of an unfortunate incident, the name Madeline should never be used? Are you for real? Your comment is ridiculous. The kidnapping and the book have nothing to do with each other. The only similarity is the name.

I think it’s a great idea, too bad Madeline and her class didn’t visit the Obama girls. That would have been fun – and more up to date.

MiaB on

My 4yo daughter loves the Madeline books and I’m so excited to get this new book for her. She loves to make up her own Madeline stories, making her a friend at school or playing with her dolls in her room.

@Minami86 – the original Madeline series written by Ludwig Bemelmans only had 6 stories, but none of them had Madeline visit America. However, the series was continued by John Bemelmans Marciano, and some take place in the US.

Kristine on

Rebecca, something is wrong with you for the connection you made is way out there……..

Jillian on

Rebecca, what on earth would make make you think that? This is a beautiful series. Should it be put away for ever because of her. It’s not like the book is mocking her.

Tess on

I’ve never heard of someone named Candle, even a fictional character. Candle??

Minami86 on

@MiaB: Thank you!! I read one or 2 books as a kid but I mainly had the show & movies, which were all fantastic! I might just buy this new book for myself to start the collection. When my 5 year old niece comes over, I can read them to her! =)

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