As I recall from my first pregnancy, when you find out you’re going to have a baby girl, a few things inevitably happen. First, your husband goes a bit pale and starts muttering things like, “But I don’t know anything about girls!” (And you’re like, “Wait, what about me? Aren’t I a girl?”) Second, all the women in your life respond in a way that reveals how superior we think our own sex. And finally, you begin to fantasize about tea parties and curling up together with girly reads from your own childhood, like Madeline. Not that you would admit to this, and of course you claim not to care either way. Then you order a copy of Madeline. All this before the baby actually appears and/or shows any interest in anything faintly Madeline-related.
I mean, maybe. I’ve heard.
All of which is to say, I have been pretty charmed by Harper’s recent obsession with Madeline and Madeline’s Rescue. (We also have Madeline in London, but Harper has shown very little interest in it. We’re more into doggies than horses around here.) I swear, I didn’t push her into anything. She’s taken to these books all on her own. And what I love is how there’s nothing pink or princessy about Madeline — she’s girly, but a total badass.
In fact, part of what seems to attracts Harper to these books are the horrible dangers and near-tragedies they contain. She loves the line “To the tiger in the zoo, Madeline just says ‘Pooh pooh!'” (The phrase “pooh-pooh” she finds absolutely hilarious.) She adores the pages (weirdly frequent in these books, actually) on which all the girls are crying. And she’s obsessed with the part in Madeline’s Rescue when Madeline almost drowns and is saved by a dog. I admit that it’s a little unnerving to hear your tiny almost-still-a-baby saying, when she reads herself the book in a little sing-song, “Saved her from a watery grave.” (Then she taps on the picture of the dog and says, admiringly, “So brave.”) I know a couple other little girls who are similarly obsessed with people being sad or crying, and want to talk about it again and again. It’s funny to see them processing the whole emotion thing. Harper always wants to talk about who was crying (whether in a book or in real life) and why (her guess is usually that they need to take a nap, which I think is 9 times out of 10 a fair assumption) and how they got to feel better again (if not the nap, generally a hug from someone).
Anyway, I’m not sure she totally gets either of these books — to be fair, they are probably more appropriate for older kids — but she does want to read them again and again, and I’m pretty happy about this. I like the rhyming, playful text. I like the loose, sketchy illustrations. I will say that I think the illustrations in the original Madeline are much lovelier, and Madeline’s Rescue, while some of the illustrations look a tiny bit like they were sketched onto a napkin while the artist rode on a bumpy train, has a more interesting story. Most of all, I like that Madeline is spunky and fearless and that Harper is drawn to her.
Now I just have to impatiently wait for Harper to be old enough for Madeline tea time at the Carlyle. Sigh.
PS: And now that I’m having a boy I will get to revisit those boyhood-book greats like…what? Someone help me. What do little boys love to read? Toy truck manuals? Lego instructions? The Hardy Boys?