Module 2 — Classics


Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Module 2 — Classic


Bemelmans, L.  (1939).  Madeline.  New York, NY: Puffin Books.


Madeline is one of twelve girls “in two straight lines” who are overseen by Miss Clavel.   When the bold and adventurous is hospitalized with appendicitis her classmates are amazed by her bravery and positive attitude.  The story is told through rhyming verse and beautiful paintings including the yellow-uniformed girls and many famous landmarks of Paris.

My Impressions

The story of Madeline is so simple and straightforward and yet also dramatic and compelling.  The wonderful paintings by Bemelmans are also minimalistic in many ways, and their simplicity emphasizes the splendor of many of the Paris settings as well as that of the “old house in Paris that was covered with vines.”


[Review of Madeline, by L. Bemelmans]. (1939, June 15). Kirkus Reviews, 3, ?.

Yes, it will sell:- (1) because it is Ludwig Bemelmans and a beautiful book; (2) because Bemelmans’ sense of humor tickles the risibilities of adults and they buy books. Children may like the absurdities, but actually, the appeal is not juvenile. The charm of the pictures (other than the coloring itself) lies in the identification with familiar and recognizable objects. And the text is not keyed to the interests or understanding of the average child.

Breen, K. & Fader, E. (2000). One hundred books that shaped the century. School Library Journal, 46(1), 50-58.

This all-time favorite introduces one of the best-loved, best-known, and most enduring characters in children’s books. Fearless and intrepid, Madeline will live on forever.

Using in the Library

An appendix lists some of the landmarks seen in the pages of Madeline, such as Notre Dame and the Tuileries Gardens.  Students could choose a landmark to research, finding images and historical information online or through other library resources.

Students could use other Madeline books to find landmarks in other cities or simply use the titles (such as Madeline in London) to suggest sites that Madeline might visit in her other adventures.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Module 2 — Classic


Burnett, F.H.. (1911).  The secret garden.  New York, NY: Frederick A. Stokes Company.


Mary is an orphaned girl left to live with a completely disinterested uncle in a palatial manor.  Mary gains access to a garden that his been locked and off-limits to all since the death of her uncle’s wife.  She begins tending to the garden with the help of a servant’s brother, Dickon, whose infectious enthusiasm inspires everyone around him.  When Mary discovers that a sickly cousin secretly lives in the house, she begins taking him to the garden, resulting in a magical kind of rebirth for both the garden and for the story’s principal characters.

My Impressions

The Secret Garden is rich with symbolism and a celebration of youth, vitality, innocence and growth.  Death is another strong presence in the book, however, and in this garden (like the bibical Gardens of Eden and Gethsemane) death is part of the cycle of life. Personal sacrifice can result in redemption, and several characters see a dramatic rebirth that affirms the values of compassion, generosity, and kindness.


[Review of The secret garden, by. F.H. Burnett]. (1987, May 15). Kirkus Reviews, 55, ?.

Burnett was a romantic, sometimes too sentimental for modern tastes, but this is her masterpiece; sharply characterized, with the appeal of the gloomy, treasure-filled mansion, the mystery of the plaintive child crying out in the night, and, best of all, the marvelous garden coming back to life in the spring as the children learn how to nurture it. The story is still deservedly popular, though it might take an adult willing to share it aloud to make it accessible to slower readers, who may find the bit of Yorkshire dialect and the leisurely length difficult.

[Review of The secret garden, by F.H. Burnett]. (2003, July 14). Publishers Weekly, 250, 28.

Bratty and spoiled Mary Lennox is orphaned when her parents fall victim to a cholera outbreak in India. As a result, Mary becomes the ward of an uncle in England she has never met. As she hesitantly tries to carve a new life for herself at imposing and secluded Misselthwaite Manor, Mary befriends a high-spirited boy named Dickon and investigates a secret garden on the Manor grounds. She also discovers a sickly young cousin, Colin, who has been shut away in a hidden Manor room. Together Mary and Dickon help Colin blossom, and in the process Mary finds her identity and melts the heart of her emotionally distant uncle.

Using in the Library

In The Secret Garden, a group of friends work together to care for a beautiful garden that can be enjoyed by many.  Assign students to research the concept of community, school, or urban gardens.  After locating websites for several community gardens, student share the information they’ve found and respond to questions such as these: What are the benefits of a community or school garden?  What are the steps you would follow in starting and maintaining a garden? How do you think the participants feel at various points in a gardening project?

Growth and rebirth are common themes in many myths and creation stories.  Assign students to find one or two stories involving these themes and then compare the stories they find.


About Boyd Waltman

Boyd Waltman is a film editor in Houston, Texas.
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