Book of the Week: The Story of Babar

August 12, 2013

The Story of Babar by Jean de Brunhoff

Images and text by Carter.

I think I’ve mentioned it once or twice or a million times, but we are in love with elephants around here. I probably haven’t told you about the stuffed elephant that sits in my closet, who once upon a time played ‘You Are My Sunshine‘ and now has a floppy neck, ears rubbed ragged, and decades of dust. And then there’s this elephant I love – Babar, the Elephant King. Jean de Brunhoff wrote a handful of stories about him, starting with this one, The Story of Babar.

French picture books from the early 1930s are wilder, perhaps even riskier, than some of our tamer fare today. The kid in me remembers Babar’s fancy trip to the city, recklessly riding the elevator, and his dashing green suit and derby hat. I had forgotten about the terribly brutal loss of his mother – which occurs close to the first page! But Babar the orphan was far from ordinary. And Babar the extraordinary gives hope to tough beginnings. What this story does with such grace and confidence is a gift to a young reader. It challenges them to look at sadness and trusts that they are courageous enough to celebrate the happily ever after. I love Babar for that just as much as I love his shoes with spats.

P.S. – On a lighter note, I think Celeste’s wedding gown should go down in fashion history with Kate Middleton’s! It is long and lovely and fit for a Queen!

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Sweet and Shorts: Sassy Board Books {winners!} « Design of the Picture Book
August 30, 2013 at 8:00 am

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennifer August 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I love Babar! I am really hoping to do a Babar themed birthday party when my seven month old turns one later this year. But I am having trouble finding supplies/decorations since Babar is not a well known character or concept in the US, unlike Elmo for example. Anyone have any ideas? Even Etsy has very little Babar themed items.

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2 Carter Higgins August 12, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Oops! I replied in the wrong place! Still love love love this.

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3 Carter Higgins August 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Oh, how much fun! Isn’t it funny how Etsy was my first thought until I saw your last sentence?! Maybe you could get a bunch of derby hats? Or make fancy yellow crowns? Or I wonder if you could find a bunch of used copies and cut the illustrations into some kind of Babar garland? I’m all for creative use of turning books into art!

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4 Christy@SweetandSavoring August 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I used to read a lot of Babar when I was a kid! Seeing the differences in literature over time periods and in foreign countries is so fascinating, isn’t it?

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5 Karen August 12, 2013 at 6:52 pm

My brother and I loved Babar and Celeste and Artur. Thanks for a walk down memory lane.

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6 Kathy Ellen Davis August 13, 2013 at 8:06 am

Carter!
BABAR!
LOVE!

I’ll have you know that someone is now my mortal enemy ONLY because he hates Babar. Ok, I’m trying to see the good qualities in him, but the Babar hatred is coloring everything else.

I read him A TON as a kid, in English and then tried in French.
It’s also very interesting that the author died very young (late 30s I think)
and one of his sons took over and does the books now.

I adore Babar and seeing him always makes me smile.
Thanks for the smile in my blog reader today :)

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7 ck August 13, 2013 at 8:14 am

We ran into the original Babar recently at my parents. Charming, but, um, I wasn’t expecting to turn the page and see a gun pointed at his mother. I have an extremely anxious 3 yr old who is very concerned about death and the thought of losing her mother would send her over the edge. Not fun.

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8 Carter Higgins August 13, 2013 at 10:06 pm

It is abrupt, right? I know. Hugs to your little one!

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9 Joanne August 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I also have loved the story of Babar but I had the same experience as Ck. Feeling warm and fuzzy, I took the book out of the library and was a little shocked when I began reading it to my son. First there was the gun and his mother being shot and Babar running for his life and later on there is someone sick from a poisonous mushroom?

Aside from that, it’s a cute series.

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10 Carter Higgins August 13, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Oh, that mushroom picture is scary! You’re right!

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11 bekka @ see what i sea designs August 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

I have a travel bucket list that includes picking up prints from Babar and Madeline from the booksellers along the Seine. Those stories are to this day some of my absolute favorite!

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12 Carter Higgins August 13, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Oooh, what a plan!

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13 Melissa August 13, 2013 at 11:52 pm

Oh, we had this book growing up! We were big fans of Babar stories!

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14 cath August 14, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Well it seems that it is one of those few French children’s book that made it internationally. It is quite old, and in those days, they didn’t care about sparing children’s feelings as much (on that note, classics ARE scary, Snow-White is terrifying!) It reminds me of Bambi whose mother is shot by a hunter too. You can also read an “animal protection” message into it, to make it easier for the little ones.
Also, I love this “quaint” quality of the pictures and the story.

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