Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott on Way Back Wednesday
By Ludwig Bemelmans
In celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott on the Snuggery’s Way Back Wednesday, this 1954 winner is a perfect choice for a respite from the winter blahs with a quick trip to Paris.
Listen to this review that captures perfectly its joy de vivre and its infectious, engaging spirit, present from first page to surprising conclusion:
Everything Bemelmans has ever written has had a naively simple yet vivid quality of kindness. Above all, of course, the gaiety, clarity, and richly right colors of Bemelmans’ pictures make them live and joyous scenes. –The Spectator
Kindness, gaiety, clarity and joyous are not bad words to describe this book that rightly deserved its winning label of the “most distinguished picture book of the preceding year”.
That house in Paris “covered with vines” that is home to Miss Clavell and the “twelve little girls in two straight lines” is a very special place to visit. Young readers have always related to the adventurous spirit of Bemelmans’ heroine, Madeline, who takes an impromptu dip in the Seine! Gendarmes, painters sketching at the water’s edge, fishermen, passers by and of course Miss Clavell, are alarmed to say the least!
But it is an orphaned dog that facilitates Madeline’s rescue. And of course, Genevieve is adopted tout suite by the little girls and plied with biscuits, beef and milk. Who is really being rescued is definitely the question.
But complications inevitably ensue with one dog and twelve girls! To whom does Genevieve belong? And what about the sudden arrival of the president of the board of trustees of the school and the imposing, haughty Lord Cucuface? Don’t you love the name? His demeanor fits his name to a tee. What a grump! Genevieve is unceremoniously banished. Will she ever return to those who love her? And how will ONE dog divide his affections among TWELVE girls if she does? Young readers of today will still root for Genevieve and rightly boo Lord Cucuface.
Mr. Bemelmans has filled his book, as the review stated earlier, with the simple kindness that perhaps was an everyday hallmark of an earlier time. But that is the wonder of all picture books and the Caldecott winners in particular; they entertain and teach at the same time by displaying what is classic and unchanging. And unless I’m completely out of the loop, kindness is still in style in 2013. Hooray for Madeline, Genevieve and Ludwig Bemelmans! Lord Cucuface, take note, you need a few lessons in kindness and Madeline is the perfect one to model this virtue to you beautifully in “Madeline’s Rescue”.
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