Discover Classic Literature: Babar the Elephant

One of the delights of parenthood is revisiting the books you grew up with. I remember my mother reading the story of Babar the Elephant to me as a child. I loved the sweetness of this family, with children Pom, Flora, Alexander, and Isabelle, and the adventures they encountered. So when my son was young, I began reading these magical tales to him.

Remarkably, Babar turned 80 last fall, yet his storyteller, Laurent de Brunhoff, remains as busy as ever, writing and imagining wonderful new places for Babar and his family to explore.

Now 86, Brunhoff's creative energy continues to pulse, something that, as a writer, I find inspiring. The author lives in Manhattan where he develops his children's books from his studio, infusing them with warmth and simple lessons about kindness and gratitude.

As a boy growing up in France, it was Brunhoff's father and mother who first imagined Babar's world. His mother made up the tale for her children and they became so enamored that father, Jean, brought the character of Babar to life in 1931. He would create six books before dying of tuberculosis in 1937. Laurent, who also studied art, eventually decided to continue his family's tale and published his first Babar book in 1946. He was just 21.

Since then, more than 40 Babar books have followed, along with games, DVDs, and movies. In all, more than 13 million books have been sold in 27 languages. Do you have a favorite? If you haven't yet discovered Babar, visit your local library or pick up a copy at Pinocchio's: The Children's Bookplace. Then, sit down with your child and wander through this gentle elephant's world. You'll be glad you did.

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