I read this book many years ago, and again last night to our 17-month-old daughter Sigourney. The fun came when the pictures switched from monochrom yellow to many-colored impressionistic works. I would turn the page and Sigourney would let out a happy "Ooooooooo!" upon seeing the sudden explosion of color. Having such an exuberant audience made the reading experience fun.
As a father of a daughter, I'm always looking for stories with strong girls and women as main characters. Madeline offers a fun example. She's not afraid to take some chances, and has an independent streak in her. I particularly love the scene where she stands up on her hospital bed to show her classmates her new appendix scar.
Bemelmans is a terrific visual storyteller. The 12 girls walking/eating/brushing teeth/sleeping in two parallel lines - what an iconic storybook image! And when Madeline enters the hospital for 10 days, it's obvious that something is missing. The lines are unbalanced, and the frowns on the remaining girls' faces show that they feel the loss deeply. They want their friend back and healthy! Meaningful friendships are important - not a bad lesson to learn.