As I introduced my daughter to Madeline to my daughter tonight I found myself reading a whole different story than I'd read when I was a girl. As a child I loved the idea of the girls sleeping in one big room, walking in two straight lines, the little girl who stuck her tongue out at the tiger, and the beautiful toys she was given in the hospital. Back then, it was a sweet story.
The words haven't changed, but on this reading the sweet story melted away and all I felt was anxiety.
Here is this teacher who lives with these girls. She spends all day taking them around Paris, keeping them safe, and trying to keep up with little Madeline. Even Little Lipstick gasped in horror and said, "No, no, no!" when Madeline walked on the stonewall of the bridge. Can you imagine the heart attack that would cause a teacher? That child would be in the "thinking spot" so fast she wouldn't know what hit her. Once she earned her outings privilege again we'd spend hours practicing how to walk on the sidewalk safely.
And the zoo? I've taken Madeline to the zoo. I've held onto Madeline as she tried to climb over the fence to get to the tigers. I've held her back from attacking the prairie dogs. I wasn't on my own with 11 other girls either. And I didn't have to watch over them at night. I got to spend the post-zoo field trip evening in my own house. With wine.
Oh Miss Clavel, I feel your pain. I know you love Madeline, but that oh-my-goodness she keeps you on your toes. I hope that you enjoy long summers where you are able to take peaceful, relaxing baths, sleep through the night, and go for walks around Paris without constantly being scared that Madeline will suddenly dart in front of a street car when you're not looking. I hope that when Madeline grows up she writes you a letter thanking you for taking her to the hospital when she was sick in the middle of the night, and for all those times you kept her safe on your outings.