cover image Madeline and the Cats of Rome

Madeline and the Cats of Rome

John Bemelmans Marciano, . . Viking, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-670-06297-3

Piggybacking onto the original Madeline books by his grandfather, Marciano sends the “twelve little girls in two straight lines” to Rome, where his red-haired heroine chases a thief and saves a house full of cats. Like its models, this add-on is filled with both yellow and full-color pages, absurd plot twists and a Bemelmans-style visual guide of places to visit. Regrettably, as in his Madeline Says Merci , Marciano’s didactic theme reduces the spirited Madeline to a smug counterfeit. When the thief Catarina explains that she steals only to feed Rome’s starving stray cats, Madeline self-righteously says, “While I applaud your charity,/ Let me say this with clarity:/ STEALING IS WRONG—no matter the cause.” Awkward syntax and forced rhymes abound (“Madeline said, 'My, what a nice kitten.’/ Her dog was of a different opinion”), and at their best the illustrations are no more than serviceable imitations of Bemelmans’s style. The joy and brio of the original books go missing. Ages 3–up. (Sept.)