Madeline (book)
Madeline 1939 cover
Author Ludwig Bemelmans
Illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans
Publication date 1939
ISBN 0670445800
Publication Order
Preceded by
The Golden Basket
Followed by
Madeline's Rescue

Madeline is a 1939 book written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans, the first in the book series, which inspired the Madeline media franchise. It is considered one of the major classics of children's literature.

The story is set in Catholic boarding school in Paris, France. The opening rhyming sentences were repeated at the start of the subsequent books in the series:

In an old house in Paris
That was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.


Madeline is the smallest of the girls. She is seven years old, and the only redhead. She is the bravest and most daring of the girls, flaunting at "the tiger in the zoo" and giving Miss Clavel a headache as she goes around the city doing all sorts of antics.

One night, Miss Clavel wakes up, sensing something wrong. Doctor Cohn is called, and takes Madeline to the hospital because she has a ruptured appendix. Hours later, Madeline finds herself recuperating. She is greeted by her classmates and Miss Clavel, who give her flowers, and a doll house from her Papa. Madeline's classmates and Miss Clavel go home, but Miss Clavel wakes up again, to find the other little girls wailing, demanding to "have their appendix out too". Miss Clavel assures them that they're all well, and calls on them to go to sleep.


  • Despite making her debut appearance in this book, Madeline and the rest of the class actually made a cameo appearance in The Golden Basket, two years before the original book was published.

Book vs. Special

  • In the book, "the good" that the girls smile at is a woman feeding a horse. In the special, however, that would be a juggling, dancing clown.
  • The book goes straight from the part where Madeline frightens Miss Clavel to where Miss Clavel turns on her bedroom light out of panic. In the special, though, between those two, the problem starts on a winter morning where Madeline just sits and watches the other eleven skate, walks away (ignoring the clown as he pops out to play), and sits by the zoo's frozen pond while the rest look (with especially the monkeys not being much help). Madeline claims to be just a little tired, but then Miss Clavel, carrying her, tells her that she is needed at the tiger cage, as Nicole is so scared. Madeline just says calmly, "Pooh." That, however, quiets the tiger. Then after the girls say their meal verse, Madeline looks around to make sure nobody looks, and as the others are eating their bread, she gives her entire loaf to her mouse friends.
  • The lines where Madeline is in Dr. Cohn's arms and where everybody cries are switched. Besides, Miss Clavel does not cry in the special, but assures the other eleven that everything will be all right.
  • Between the ambulance scene, and the one of the hospital room with flowers, the girls wake up to find Madeline still absent. Danielle cries over the idea of Madeline having a hole where the appendix is located (to Chloe, the head; to Nicole, the arm; and the blonde girl [known in later episodes as "Yvette"], the tummy (on the lower right). In fact, after the second time, Nicole and Chloe cry with Danielle; the third time, they all do so.
  • Despite the "next day" scene in the special, the narrator mentions that the bad appendix was taken out in the night "without a pout." Then when Madeline wakes up several hours later (two in the book), a nurse brings Madeline a glass of (presumably still) mineral water, and promises ice cream that night. She offers anything else. Madeline requests mice. At first, the nurse misinterprets it as "ice," but freaks out when Madeline clarifies herself.
  • In the special, the daily routine for the other eleven girls becomes very confused, as they frown at the clown and smile at a recently-caught criminal, switch lines 2 and 4 in their meal verse, brush their bread, and "break [their] teeth."
  • In the book, all of Miss Clavel's quote, "Isn't this a fine day to visit Madeline" takes place in a park, during the bus ride, and buying get-well flowers from a florist. In the special, Miss Clavel says it at the house on day 22, but makes sure the girls finish their breakfast. On the way to the hospital, they stop at a fair to get a present. While Miss Clavel does get the flowers, there is a problem with what the girls can get: first, Chloe tries to get a vintage carousel, but Miss Clavel says to look for something smaller, though the man there tries offering different numbers of francs. Then Danielle tries to get an ice cream cone, but Miss Clavel says to look for something that doesn't drip. They are unable to decide until a moving mouse scares them. The man shows a wind-up key to show it isn't real. The girls decide it will be perfect for Madeline... until the same man brings a stuffed tiger, scaring them. However, Nicole says it is a much better gift, deciding Madeline would love to say, "Pooh-pooh" to it, and asks how much it costs. They then get it gift-wrapped.
  • In the special, while Miss Clavel talks to Dr. Cohn outside, the girls pretend to get scared when Madeline unwraps the stuffed tiger, but Madeline tells them to just say, "Pooh-pooh," and the girls applaud. Then Madeline hosts a show about her scar.
  • When they go home and break their bread, the remaining girls say their meal verse twice.
  • Once Miss Clavel finds the remaining girls crying over wanting their appendices out like Madeline's, they have drawn on their stomachs. Then Madeline is shown (in uniform) winking to the audience.