Ludwig Bemelmans,
Madeline's Rescue
(Golden Drive, 1998)

As a librarian and a parent, I am well acquainted with Madeline, the feisty schoolgirl from the "old house in Paris that was covered with vines," and I was interested to see how Madeline's Rescue, which won the 1954 Caldecott medal for its illustrations, translated into a recorded medium. Although Carol Danell's narration is pleasant enough, I was disappointed for several reasons.

Unless you are familiar with the book, it is difficult to really understand what is happening in the story. Without the illustrations, it is unclear what happens to Madeline -- she falls into the water at one point and nearly drowns, but the text does not state this. It actually seems as if the headmistress, Miss Clavell, is the one who has fallen. The punchline of the story is unclear without the illustrations as well: the little girls fight over who will sleep with the dog, Genevieve, then later, Miss Clavell hurries back to the dormitory to find that there was "enough hound to go around." The illustrations show that Genevieve has had puppies, but how is a child of 3 or 4 to infer that?

This leads to my next complaint: the "liner notes" are downright stingy, with a full page of them devoted to advertising other Golden Drive offerings. I can understand not being able to reproduce the book in the liner notes, but there could have been a synopsis -- especially considering that for a few dollars less than the price of the CD, one could buy an audiotape of the story complete with a paperback copy of the book.

This brings me to the songs or, as they are coyly called, the musical bon-bons. One retells the story, alternating each English line with a French translation, and all of it going too fast for most children to catch. The other songs are culled from former Golden Records over the ages, and while it's obvious that some were chosen because they incorporated French words, some of the choices seemed to have a tenuous connection to the story, if at all. I admit to a mild nostalgic kick when I heard "Dominique," but the song is right up there with "It's a Small World" for being thoroughly annoying once it lodges in your head. The other songs are pleasant enough but hardly memorable. Needless to say, only minimal information on the songs is available; the lyrics are not printed.

Get the book from your library and read it to your children yourself. Save your francs for something more substantial.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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