Madeline and the Bad Hat – Ludwig Bemelmans

More in the Series – Madeline
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.

“The Bad Hat” in the title, it turns out, is a boy. I guess it’s a bit like a “bad egg” or a “bad apple”. Bad hat isn’t a term I’ve encountered before. I thought originally it might be a translation thing, but it turns out (Google tells me) that this is actually a term in the world, so there ya go.

Anyway, because the focus of this book is on the “bad hat” – the son of the Spanish ambassador who moves in next door to Ms Clavel’s school – there is no Bechdel pass. Every conversation in the book is about him. There is also no one in the book who isn’t very white and European. The closest thing to cultural diversity is Pepito’s matador outfit, and I’m afraid I’m not willing to count that.

The ideology of the book, however, is pretty neat. There are a couple of things going on here that I quite liked. Firstly, I love how Madeline is just so totally and thoroughly unimpressed by Pepito’s shenanigans. She’s just like, nope, you’re a ratbag, having none of that. Ms Clavel is taken in by him, definitely falling into the “boys will be boys” trap, but Madeline herself? No dice. Even when he says he’s seen the error of his ways, she gives not an inch until he proves it.

And yet at the same time the narrative is written in such a way that it is clear that while Pepito’s actions are very misguided, mostly he is just trying to impress her and the other girls. He’s clearly lonely and wanting to make friends, he just sucks at it. Somehow the story manages to hang on to censuring his actions without actually making him the bad guy. Which is quite a feat of nuance for a children’s story. 🙂

So yes, read this book. Madeline remains awesome.

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