Babar the King (Babar Series)

by Jean De Brunhoff

Hardcover, 2002



Call number





Random House Books for Young Readers (1937), 56 pages


After making peace with the rhinoceros, King Babar and Queen Celeste plan a model city and live happily with their friends and subjects in the country of elephants.

User reviews

LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Originally published in 1933, this third Babar book picks up just where its predecessor, The Travels of Babar, left off, as Babar, Celeste and the Old Lady adjust to being back in the land of the elephants. When all of the many goods he purchased on his recent travels arrive by special dromedary
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delivery, Babar puts his grand plan into motion, proposing that the elephants build their own city, to be named Celesteville after their queen. All goes according to plan, and soon the pachyderm metropolis is a reality. But just when all seems well, and the elephants are celebrating their achievement, a double tragedy strikes, in the form of a snakebite that leaves the Old Lady gravely ill, and a house fire which injures wise old Cornelius. As Babar slips into a troubled dream that night, the question hangs in the air: which will triumph, Misfortune or Happiness...?

Although I do recall reading them as a young girl, I can't say that the Babar books have ever been amongst my particular favorites - they're interesting, the artwork is lovely, but the stories never really appealed to me, and I did not read them again and again, as I did some other titles. I would imagine that those readers who perceive in these books an apologia for colonialism (see Should We Burn Babar?: Essays on Children's Literature and the Power of Stories) will be incensed at the story here, in which Babar, with the Old Lady by his side, brings "civilization" to the elephants, in the form of urban development. For my part, I continue to waffle, as it concerns the question of Jean de Brunhoff's worldview and storytelling intent. Did he mean these books to be a glorification of France's colonization of Africa, or as a gentle parody (as Adam Gopnick has argued) of it? If the latter, does that mean that they are less problematic? I have no answers, but the parallel between France and Africa in the early twentieth century, and the humans and elephants in these stories, seems fairly clear. There were no "fierce cannibals" here, as there were in The Travels of Babar - something for which I am grateful, given the offensive way in which they were portrayed - but I can't honestly say I enjoyed the story that much. Leaving aside all political and/or ethical issues, it just felt a little disjointed to me.
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LibraryThing member onyx95
Babar the King of the Elephants decides to create a city by a river. The city is built, the elephants are all given their jobs and after the jobs are done, they get to play different games. Everyone is happy till the Old Lady gets bit by a snake and Cornelius' house burns down. King Babar is
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worried till he dreams give his the answers. The moral of the story is that everyone has misfortunes from time to time, but if you are not discouraged, and work hard, you can be happy.

Great moral to get at, the fact that the elephants made a beautiful city is fun and showing all of them with jobs before play time is also good. The names of the elephants were a tongue twister and some times the wording was confusing even to me. The description of some of the activities were not easily understood by my children and so the story could not flow (because we had to stop to discuss it). My oldest did enjoy the list of names and their jobs, but that was because I had trouble saying all of the names without 'blah blah'.
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LibraryThing member themulhern
Very socialist. There are no homeless people in Celestville. But the flamingoes have been well and truly displaced. How can they get their food when there are elephants diving into the river? Babar's nightmare is anthropomorphic and allegorical.


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Physical description

11.25 inches


0394805801 / 9780394805801
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