Our 17 month old didn't oooo and aaaaah over "Madeline and the Bad Hat" as much as she did over "Madeline", but she still seemed to have fun while I read it to her this morning. The beautiful color pictures get the biggest reaction out of Siggy. Pepito flying a kite on the roof, the animals returning to the vine covered mansion, and every work connected with Pepito freeing the zoo animals - stunning!
Bemelmans begins to show a darker side here. For example, Ms. Clavel's gift of a toolbox to Pepito ends up being used to make a guillotine to slaughter chickens. Also, Pepito letting a cat out of a bag amidst a bunch of hungry dogs is a bit upsetting. Then Bemelmans seems to preach karma by having the cat jump onto Pepito's head for protection. Pepito gets savaged by the dogs, requires rescue, and appears to learn a lesson with help from a tut-tut-ing Madeline.
What does Pepito do with the lesson? Well, he promises to become a friend of animals, and has a St. Francis of Assisi moment. He communicates with the birds in the trees, stops terrorizing the small animals that call his neighborhood home, etc. But then he goes too far when he releases all the zoo animals up to the point of freeing the lions. The drawing of the lions licking their chops as potential prey mills about outside their cage is beautifully and humorously done. Madeline, ever the wee heroine, says just the right thing to keep Pepito from unwittingly allowing lions to kill the very animals he had sworn to love. Seems Pepito can't avoid causing a slaughter, even when his motives are good ones!
I really don't know what lesson little ones will choose from this book. Don't kill animals? Be kind to others or else? Moderation is bliss? I see it as a lesson of taking the middle path. Both cruelty and overbearing kindness can lead to trouble. Siggy just thinks the colors are pretty and says "woof woof" or "quack quack" every time a dog or bird enters the story. I like her review better.