Babar Bombs

February 4, 2006

A neighbor’s dog punctured my son’s favorite ball in the park. As recompense, the kindly woman, who worked at the local library’s donation center, gave my son a book, The Travels of Babar.

My husband and I jokingly refer to it as “Babar, the Racist, Imperial Elephant.” Babar and his companion, Celeste, find themselves marooned on an island and ambushed by Sambo-esque “savages” who steal their clothes and intend to eat them. Fortunately, the cannibals are cowardly and easily overcome, and Babar prevails. Suffice it to say, we’ve removed this story from bedtime rotation. I know that it was written and illustrated in 1932, but the images creep me out. Turns out I’m not alone.

From the New York Review of Books:

For a long time Laurent de Brunhoff has regretted his early drawings of African “savages”; he decided years ago that Babar’s Picnic will never be reprinted. Yet Random House, the original publisher of Jean de Brunhoff, continues to issue The Travels of Babar, with its stereotyped black “cannibals.”

Thankfully, my son could care less about the Babar book. He’d much rather read one of his favorites, such as:

Puss and Boots, which teaches that trickery and deceit will bring you riches and a beautiful wife, and

Curious George Goes to the Aquarium, which teaches that misbehaving will make you the star of the show, and bring you job offers.