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Images of Babar.
We all recall books read to us in our youth... For those who may read this blog, we enjoyed books like Where The Wild Things Are and The Velveteen Rabbit; books that were as dark and complex as they were thrilling and redeeming. I can only imagine our parents enjoyed them as much as we did. The books of our childhood dealt head on with themes of death, social isolation, loneliness and unrequitted love. And if you look deep enough, the books are rife with political commentary and social satire. Watching childern's television today, I'm astounded how smart people are paid large sums of money to write unoffensive, spiritless plots.
Of all the wonderful books of my childhood, one series of anthropomorphic elephants sticks out: Jean de Brunhoff’s “The Story of Babar,” originally published in 1931. Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker writes, "The Babar books are among those half-dozen picture books that seem to fix not just a character but a whole way of being, even a civilization. An elephant, lost in the city, does not trumpet with rage but rides a department-store elevator up and down, until gently discouraged by the elevator boy."
One fun fact that you may not know... the Babar books remain one of the few enterprises begun by a father and continued by his son in more or less the same style. Laurent de Brunhoff, who was twelve when his father died later picked up his father's work at the age of just thirty-seven and has gone on producing Babar books, with the same panache, almost to this day. I find this incredibly refreshing; that a beloved icon has found a way to perserver in the same voice and authenticity for almost 80 years. Let's just hope the kids of the next generation continue reading. God knows mine don't have a choice.