In honor of Traditional Thursday, I read The Travels of Babar. Jean de Brunhoff wrote this book in French in 1934, and Merle Haas translated it for English readers. This is the story of Babar, the elephant, and his wife Celeste who have embarked on a trip that goes terribly wrong and the adventures they face along the way. The illustrations of this book, also by de Brunhoff, are by far its strongest aspect. The bright colors and descriptive images draw the reader in and really add to the text. While some images are smaller and consume only have of a page, others spread largely across both pages. Adding to the charm of the watercolor and ink illustrations is the handwritten text on each page. While this gives the book a personal touch from de Brunhoff, the cursive writing would make it difficult for a child to read this book alone.
This book was full of advanced vocabulary. I think this is great, because, as we have learned in class, children’s ability to understand vocabulary is leaps and bounds ahead of their ability to produce it. This, along with the cursive writing, makes this a book that should be read aloud with children. If an adult is reading the difficult words and showing pictures that aid in defining them, the children can often pick up on the meaning and understand what the story is saying.
Now, something that I did not enjoy about this book was the length. Not only is this book 48 pages long, but it is rather wordy. Keeping children interested and attentive for this entire book would be quite difficult, as I often found myself drifting out of focus. The story is exciting, but it drags out more than necessary. It could have been more succinct in the best interest of the young audience. This is also a story that should be screened by an adult before read to children. Because it was written nearly 80 years ago, the content is extremely outdated and far from politically correct. There are cannibals (“savages”), war, a celebration of prisoners, etc. It is really just too much for a young modern reader.
I found this to be an extremely interesting read. Amazon recommends this book for 4 to 8-year-olds, but I disagree. While this story may have been appropriate for this age group when the book was released, I certainly would not recommend it for today’s young children.
Reviewed by: Sara Bunch