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Literature / Madeline

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In an old house in Paris, that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.
In two straight lines, they broke their bread, and brushed their teeth, and went to bed.
They smiled at the good, and frowned at the bad, and sometimes they were very sad.
They left the house at half past nine, in two straight lines, in rain or shine.
The smallest one- was Madeline.

Madeline is a series of children's picture books first published in 1939 by Ludwig Bemelmans, about a little French boarding school student, her eleven friends, her teacher, Miss Clavel, Spanish prankster and friend Pepito (first appears in Madeline and the Bad Hat), and her dog, Genevieve (who first appears in Madeline's Rescue).

The rest of the books were written and published in The '50s, including Madeline and the Bad Hat, Madeline and the Gypsies, Madeline in London, Madeline's Christmas (although it wasn't published until the `80's), and Caldecot-winner Madeline's Rescue. After the death of Bemelmans, his grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, wrote several others, including Madeline in America, Madeline Says Merci, Madeline and the Cats of Rome, and Madeline at the White House.

Some Madeline animated shorts were made in the 1950s; the first, Madeline, was nominated for an Academy Award. CINAR and DiC Entertainment produced several Madeline cartoons from The '80s up through the early 2000s. These ranged from TV specials adapted from the original books, to TV shows and direct-to-video movies with original stories.

Tristar released a live-action feature-length movie based on Madeline, Madeline and the Bad Hat, Madeline and the Gypsies and Madeline's Rescue in 1998. It followed the books, but also expanded the plotline, because... well, it's a picture book series. The expanded plot was for Madeline and her friends to stop Lord Cu-Cu Face (portrayed here as having the "real" name of Lord "Covington") from selling the boarding school. Madeline was also turned into an orphan in this version.

Basically, it's not a children's book series, it is the children's book series.

Madeline provides examples of:

  • Badass Adorable: Madeline.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Madeline and Pepito have the "kindergartener who pushes you into the sandbox" variety, especially in Madeline and the Bad Hat though it still does occasionally occur afterwards.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Generous doses of it, considering that the girls are speaking untranslated French through half of everything. The animated film Lost in Paris springs to mind.
  • Break the Cutie: In Madeline in London, Pepito begins to waste away after being separated from Madeline. Luckily his parents rectify this by inviting the little girls to London for his birthday party.
  • Catchphrase: Miss Clavel turning on the light and whispering "Something is not right". Usually happens Once Per Book. It was even turned into a song in the 1988 cartoon.
  • Cheerful Child: Madeline herself.
  • Children Are Tender-Hearted: In the first book, the young girls are all sobbing as Madeline's taken to the hospital to receive an appendectomy.
  • Christmas Episode: The book series has, of course, Madeline's Christmas.
  • Circus Episode: Madeline and the Gypsies involves Madeline and Pepito joining a travelling circus.
  • Darker and Edgier: The most recent books by John Bemelmens Marciano have a slightly sharper edge than his grandfather's originals. For example, Madeline and the Cats of Rome features a little Crazy Cat Girl who steals to feed all the stray cats she keeps in a creepy house, while Madeline and the Old House in Paris features a Friendly Ghost who tells the Black Comedy story of his death, accompanied by a picture showing his corpse's feet sticking out from behind a bush.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Pepito is a brat and he is almost killed when one of his pranks goes too far and he's caught in the middle of a pack of dogs fighting over a cat. Not to mention Madeline rubbing it in while the poor kid is bedridden and covered in bandages.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Madeline's debut in "The Golden Basket" features some inconsistencies with the series that spun off from this book. Her name is written as "Madeleine" and her teacher is named "Madame Severine" rather than "Ms. Clavel.", with a Sister Angeline being mentioned.
    • The first book is a realistic Slice of Life. The subsequent books become increasingly more adventure-driven. Madeline's Christmas, the last book by Ludwig Bemelmans, goes so far as to introduce magic and fantasy elements, which the books by his grandson also feature. The animated series mostly leaves out the magic, as does the 1998 film, but they keep the later books' adventurous tone for the most part.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Inverted.
    "Although she was small, the smallest of them all, she was not afraid of mice."
  • Everything Sounds Cuter In French
  • Foil: Pepito to Madeline. Both are rebellious, brave and adventurous. He's probably what she would have become without her supporting friends and Miss Clavel.
  • Freudian Excuse: Madeline and the Bad Hat shows glimpses as to Pepito's behavior, especially in the animated version and 1998 film; since his parents are busy ambassadors, he vents out his frustrations on animals.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Pepito in "Madeline and the Bad Hat".
  • Hot Drink Cure: In Madeline's Rescue, Miss Clavel gives Madeline a cup of chamomile tea after she almost drowns in the Seine, and in Madeline and the Carousel, she tells Madeline to go to bed with a cup of chamomile tea after Madeline falls off of a carousel horse and hits her head. Apparently, chamomile tea is Miss Clavel's cure-all for everything.
  • Little Miss Badass: If you ever face a tiger, always do what Madeline does. Say this:
    Madeline: (to tiger) Pooh-pooh!
  • Mama Bear: Miss Clavel.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Well, it started with books, and even today, toys are still being produced.
  • Mood Whiplash: Madeline in America begins with Madeline receiving news just before Christmas that her American great-grandfather has died. She is sad and her schoolmates join in with their signature "Boohoo!"; then Miss Clavel announces that they will all go to Texas with Madeline for the reading of great-grandpapa's will. Any semblance of mourning is put off as an exciting adventure starts for the girls, hosted by great-grandpapa's attorney Sam Crockett, who points out to Madeline the vast property that he claims, at first, is now hers. This culminates in a materialistic Christmas rainshower of gifts for all the girls, again courtesy of Sam. When, however, Miss Clavel asks him to stop spoiling her pupils, he promptly obliges by carrying out the reading of great-grandpapa's will, which reveals to a not-too-happy-looking Madeline that she will actually inherit on her 21st birthday - and she is promptly sent back to school. She seems to be at peace when going to sleep in her her old bed, though.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Madeline's peers had no names given in the original books, but have received them in adaptations of the series:
    • Animated series: Chloe, Nicole, Danielle, Yvette, Nona, Lulu, Anne, Sylvie, Monique, Janine, and Ellie (or Simone)
    • 1998 film: Aggie, Vicki, Chantal, Lucinda, Beatrice, Serena, Lolo, Elizabeth, Sylvette, Veronica, and Marie-Odile
    • Musical play: Juliette, Regine, Kate, Daphne, Simone, Camille, Marie, Amy, Dominique, Isabelle, and Anne
  • Never Say "Die":
    • In Madeline in America, Madeline's wealthy great-grandfather passes away, leaving her his fortune. What is going on is starkly obvious, and even great-grandpapa is illustrated on his deathbed, dictating his will while an angel Dixieland band plays above him, but his fate is never stated explicitly: "Her great-grandpapa, in bad health,/Had left her all his earthly wealth./To Dallas Madeline would be sent/For the reading of the last will and testament./Madeline was sad/At the news of her great-granddad./The little girls cried, "Boohoo!"/And Miss Clavel said, "We'll all go with you."
    • Averted in Madeline's Rescue, where the narrator explicitly states that Madeline "would now be dead" if Genevieve hadn't pulled her out of the river.
  • No Antagonist: Played straight in most of the books. Madeline's Rescue has Lord Cucuface as the antagonist, although the animated adaptation gives him a Heel–Face Turn in the end that sticks throughout the rest of the series. Pepito also starts out as an antagonist in Madeline and the Bad Hat and in all the adaptations, but is then redeemed a little later on.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Genevieve, the dog.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Madeline has been about seven or eight since 1939.
  • Off with His Head!: In "Madeline and the Bad Hat", Pepito builds a guillotine from the toolkit Miss Clavel gave. He uses it to decapitate a chicken and have it roasted for his lunch. The girls and Miss Clavel were shock to see this.
  • Oh, Crap!: Madeline helped Pepito free all animals and no longer abuse them. It worked a little too well when Pepito starts freeing animals in the zoo!
  • One of the Boys: Gender-Inverted. Pepito is something of a Sixth Ranger to the twelve little girls despite being a boy.
  • Pint-Sized Kid: Madeline is the smallest of the twelve little girls. In the books this is rarely an issue, but in the animated series her short height is often a source of frustration for her, like the time she was rejected from a ballet production because her legs were too small, or that time Yvette told her, "Short girls don't model, ever!"
  • Put on a Bus: Pepito left for London in Madeline in London.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: Everyone in the books and specials, the narrators of the series and movie.
  • Ruptured Appendix: This happens to Madeline in the first book.
  • Setting Update: In contrast to other books in the series, Madeline at the White House is set in the early 1960's rather than the mid-1930's.
  • Shipper on Deck: The Spanish Ambassador for Madeline and his son Pepito, mainly before Madeline visits Pepito later on in "Madeline and the Bad Hat".
  • Sick Episode: The first book has Madeline's Ruptured Appendix, while Madeline's Christmas has Madeline's friends and Miss Clavel all catch a cold.
  • Signature Headgear: The girls' all wear yellow hats with black ribbons on them, plus Pepito and his family wear nifty black hats ... even if it does denote their respective personalities.
  • Something We Forgot: Miss Clavel noticing Madeline's empty bed in Madeline and the Gypsies, then quickly realizing that Madeline got left behind at the circus. The cartoon also shows Pepito's parents (who were apparently off on a business trip in the book) worrying about him also getting left behind.
  • Spin-Off: Madeline herself debuted in a children's novel by Bemelmans' titled "The Golden Basket." Madeline and her classmates are met by the protagonists at Bruges Cathedral.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Pepito, who is initially introduced as a naughty troublemaker, ends up learning his lesson when one of his pranks ends with him being severely hurt. After that, he makes an earnest apology to Madeline and becomes much nicer from that point forward.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Pepito is one of Madeline's only male friends and is also Spanish.
  • Tuckerization: The main character was named after Bemelmans' wife Madeleine (with three "e's"). He used the "Madeline" variation (two "e's") for the character because not enough words rhyme with "Madeleine."