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Posted at 2:15 PM ET, 01/24/2011

Madeline says "Bonjour!" to the White House

By Stephen Lowman

MadelineattheWhiteHouse.JPGSpringtime in Paris sparkles, of course, but Washington during that season can seem nearly as idyllic.

So it is that Madeline, the young Parisian girl who has starred in the eponymous children’s books for 70 years, joins the droves of tourists who visit Washington during its spring bloom in the latest in the series, “Madeline at the White House.”

Despite her tender age, Madeline seems to have made some high-powered Washington connections. She gets to stay in the White House and bring her 11 school girlfriends along. (And she sleeps in the Lincoln bedroom no less!) Madeline makes friends with the first daughter, Candle. Together they roll Easter eggs on the south lawn, pay visits to the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, and raid the White House closets to play dress up.

The author is John Bemelmans Marciano, grandson of “Madeline” creator Ludwig Bemelmans, who died in 1962. In a background note at the end of the book, Marciano says, “the idea for sending Madeline to the White House was my grandfather’s and grew out of his friendship with Jacqueline Kennedy.”

MadelineWSWashMonumentHiRes.JPG“In a series of letters from late 1961 and early 1962, my grandfather sounded out the First Lady on ideas for the book, which he proposed calling ‘Madeline Visits Caroline,’ with text by Mrs. Kennedy herself,” writes Marciano.

Unfortunately, Ludwig Bemelmans died before he could write the book.

Bemelsman’s first language was French but he grew up in Germany. When he was a teenager he immigrated to New York and went on to serve in the First World War. He “considered himself to be first and foremost a proud American,” writes his grandson.

Ludwig Bemelmans is buried in Arlington Cemetery. An illustration on the inside covers shows Madeline and her classmates paying their respects at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

John Bemelmans Marciano will read from and sign copies of "Madeline at the White House" at Politics & Prose bookstore on Thursday, Jan. 27, at 10:30 a.m.

By Stephen Lowman  | January 24, 2011; 2:15 PM ET
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