A piece of children’s book history is now on display at Harvard’s Houghton Library: The library has acquired the sketches and proofs that led to Jean de Brunhoff’s ABC de Babar, first published in Paris in 1934.

Jean’s Babar books were inspired by the stories his wife, pianist Cécile de Brunhoff, told their children at bedtime. Jean wrote and illustrated seven Babar books before his death in 1937. After 1937, Jean and Cécile’s son, Laurent, picked up where his father left off, writing and illustrating more than 40 books about the beloved elephant.

Children’s books


The jungle book (Rudyard Kipling)
Primary, raw, wilderness,   survival of the fittest


The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ( L. Frank Baum)

Economic allegory, farmer, knowledge holders


Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)
Adolescence, refusal to grow, companionship, carelessness


The Little Prince ( Antoine de Saint-Exupéry )

Moon, imagination, sensitivity, humanism


Jumanji ( Chris Van Allsburg )
Games, jungle, father-son relationships


Heidi (Johanna Spyri)
Natural, simple life, campaign against industrial world


A Little Princess ( Frances H. Burnett)
Princess, romantic, good education


A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket)
Dark, dark humor, survival, drama


Treasure Island (Robert Louis Stevenson)
Adventures, treasures, trips


Babar the Elephant ( Jean de Brunhoff )
Society, elite, civilization, government


Pippi Longstocking ( Astrid Lindgren)
Original, free, quirky


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ( Lewis Carroll)
Imagination, madness, lost, labyrinth


Yesterday at Mabel’s Fables in Toronto, bookaddict24-7, foldedbetweenthepages and I discovered an author autograph wall! I love this store and definitely hope to get back there some time this summer. 

Signatures photographed: 

- Anne Brashares
- Cassandra Clare
- Rick Riordan
- Maggie Stiefvater (not certain can anyone confirm? maggie-stiefvater perhaps?)
- Laurent de Brunhoff (Babar! 🐘), Margaret Atwood, Gayle Forman
- Laini Taylor
- And the last one I just loved the quote, does anyone recognize the signature?

BRUNHOFF, JEAN DE. The Story of Babar. Illustrated by the author. Folio, publisher’s cloth-backed pictorial boards, corners bumped, light scratching; contents clean.first american edition. Printed poster for November, 1978 Book Week by de Brunhoff folded and laid-in. New York: Harrison Smith and Robert Haas, 1933

Babar and Father Christmas. Jean de Brunhoff. Translated from the French by Merle Haas. New York: Random House, 1940. First English edition. Illustrated throughout. Original dust jacket.

Babar visits Father Christmas and suggests that he take a vacation in the elephants’ country. In gratitude, Father Christmas gives Babar a magic Santa suit which will enable him to fly through the air and deliver presents on Christmas eve to all the little elephants, beginning yet another wonderful western tradtion in Celesteville.