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2011 Festival of Books artwork to feature Madeline

February 6, 2011 |  8:00 am

Fob_madeline A little French girl and her schoolmates will be making their presence known in Southern California this spring: Madeline and her friends are a theme of artwork for the 16th annual Festival of Books, taking place April 30-May 1 on the USC campus. Madeline is the beloved character introduced by Ludwig Bemelmans in 1939, the smallest of her compatriot schoolgirls who tread in two straight lines through a series of children's books, including "Madeline" and "Madeline's Rescue."

Bemelmans' grandson John Bemelmans Marciano has brought Madeline and her friends to a new generation of readers. He grew up surrounded by Madeline, in many ways. "The character was essentially on my mother, and also my grandmother," who lived with his family, Marciano told the Los Angeles Times in a phone interview. He also had pictures from the book "Madeline in London" hanging on the walls of his childhood room.

He never met his grandfather, but he uses the same materials Bemelmans did, including gouache and "pens that you have to dip in ink." Ludwig Bemelmans started with a pencil sketch and then did an ink drawing over that -- as does Marciano.

"Madeline at the White House," released in January, was based on an idea of Ludwig's that was generated by his friendship with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. On Madeline's White House visit, she doesn't get to meet Malia and Sasha, but she does get to join in an Easter egg hunt.

Marciano joins well-known picture-book artists David Shannon ("No, David!") and Eric Carle ("The Hungry Caterpillar") in providing artwork for the Festival of Books. His Madeline drawings include the Tommy Trojan statue -- "It's a great statue, and I love drawing statues," Marciano says -- because 2011 is the first year the L.A. Times’ Festival of Books will take place on the campus of USC. Marciano will be there, signing Madeline posters, book bags and everything else she and her friends manage to climb onto.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Image: 2011 Festival of Books artwork. Credit: John Bemelmans Marciano