A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday John Burningham (Mr. Gumpyâ€™s Outing), Nancy Shaw (Sheep in a Jeep), and Betty G. Birney (The World According to Humphrey).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Wende Devlin (1918-2002), Cranberry Thanksgiving, and Jan Hudson (1954-1990), Dawn Rider.
- Coretta Scott King (1927-2006), author of My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., was also born on this day. Read Dare to Dream: Coretta Scott King and the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Medearis, illustrated by Anna Rich.
- In 1810 Beethoven composes FĂĽr Elise. Gazillions of children play it on the piano to this day. Read Beethoven Lives Upstairs by Barbara Nichol, illustrated by Scott Cameron.
Born on April 27, 1898, Ludwig Bemelmans came to the United States when he was sixteen, after having been raised in Austria. As a child he lived in a hotel that his father ran; later he worked in a New York hotel to pay his bills. His true love, drawing and painting, had always been something he did only for pleasure.
In 1938 while bicycling on a small island off the coast of France, Bemelmans ran into a car and spent part of the summer in a local hospital. In the next room was a little girl who had just had an appendectomy. A crack in the ceiling over his bed looked like a rabbit. â€śI remembered the story my mother had told me of life in a convent schoolâ€¦and the little girl, the hospital, the room, the crank on the bed, the nurseâ€¦all fell into place.â€ť Creativity happens in the empty places in a writerâ€™s lifeâ€”in Bemelmansâ€™s case he needed the time spent in a hospital to think through his masterpiece.
Returning to New York to write the book, Bemelmans observed a French teacher who taught a class of small girls and gave them daily walks around Gramercy Park. His story begins with rhyming couplets, â€śIn an old house in Paris/that was covered in vines/lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.â€ť The youngest and cheekiest of these girls, Madeline, fearlessly faces the removal of her appendix. The operation turns out to be such a joyous event that the other girls in the convent want an operation, too.
Legendary Viking Press editor May Massee had encouraged Bemelmans to create his first childrenâ€™s book Hansi (1934), but she though this new story too sophisticated for young readers and turned it down. Hence the new publisher on the block, Simon and Schuster, ended up releasing Madeline in 1939. Although the book won a Caldecott Honor, Simon and Schuster put it out of print in 1950. Massee immediately snatched it up for the Viking list and asked Bemelmans to craft sequels, beginning with Madelineâ€™s Rescue in 1953. From then on, a growing group of devoted fans eagerly awaited each new volume. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy read Madeline to her children and corresponded with Bemelmans. Child after child has fallen under its spell. Judy Blume, one of the most beloved childrenâ€™s book writers of our era, hid her library copy of Madeline because she could not endure having it returned. As she said in Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Childrenâ€™s Book, â€śMany years have passed since I hid that copy of Madelineâ€¦but I can still recite the story by heart. When my daughter was born, Madeline was the first book I bought for her. Some books you never forget. Some characters become your friends for life.â€ť
Millions of children would agree with herâ€”they are so happy to have a friend like Madeline. Happy birthday Ludwig Bemelmansâ€”your hospital stay resulted in a book that has brought joy to generations of readers.
Hereâ€™s a page from Madeline:
Originally posted April 27, 2011. Updated for .