Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Red Hair Girl Is Her Own Self

Red Hair Girl was Very Put Out the other day when my neighbor Jenise called her "Madeline".

Jenise used to work at a toy store that sold dolls that look like Red Hair Girl---they were modeled on the girl Madeline, she told me, from the 1939 book. {The dolls were from the late '90s--you can find them on eBay.}

"I AM NOT MADELINE!" Red Hair Girl said, stomping around, scowling behind her permanent smile. "For your information, my birth name is Sue E. Generis, but I don't like it."

In fact, I'd searched online to find RHG's origins when I first bought her for 49¢ at GW last summer, but couldn't find her type.
I've come to think of her as one of a kind, and she is! …in personality, if not in manufacturing. (Even more so, now she has tiny permanent smudges on her nose and her left big toe from playing at the Grand Canyon.)

It was a bit of a shock that RHG has a relative, but luckily I always loved Madeline, and it makes sense it's that girl. They could be cousins. 

I looked up the man who created Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans, and [I was relieved to read] he was a good guy, and his other art is just as charming and mischievous as the little girl.

LB lived a lot of the time in New York City, and some say Madeline is more of a scrappy New Yorker than a Parisian---more like Eloise. 

Here's one of his New Yorker covers [more at Pinterest]:

Plus he gets the seal of approval from Maira Kalman, a favorite artist of mine. Here's her portrait of the artist, from an illustrated letter to LB:

Red Hair Girl recruited a friend to recreate the scene.  (The friend is NOT named Pat.)



bink said...

I wouldn't mind being cousins with Madeline...one on the few little girls in books of that era I would say that about!

What does the E stand for in Sue E. Generis?

Fresca said...

Right, me too--I was relieved: Madeline is O–K!

If you say "Sue E." out loud, it sounds like "sui".

(Sui generis, you know: "of its/her/his own kind").