Madame Badobedah and the Old Bones

Madame Badobedah and the Old Bones
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
April 02, 2024
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Mabel lives with her parents in the Mermaid Hotel, where she keeps an eye on all the guests, particularly her friend, the endlessly fascinating Madame Badobedah. Madame Badobedah, who considers herself part of a long tradition of daring women such as Amelia Earhart and Zora Neale Hurston, has pirouetted through pyramids, swum with mermaids, and helped a triceratops with a toothache. Just opening one of the drawers in her dressing table full of mementos elicits tales of banshees and curses and an exciting new quest: a reverse jewel heist! On a mission to return a priceless “borrowed” emerald, Mabel and her adopted godmother don their best spy costumes and head to the Natural History Museum, where they might just meet an old—very old—friend. But as Mabel discovers, no one is too young or old for adventure, because it’s adventuring that makes life worthwhile. In concert with Lauren O’Hara’s fantastical illustrations, Sophie Dahl spins a tale of intergenerational friendship that shines like Madame Badobedah’s found sea glass: a colorful treasure.

Editor review

1 review
A Magical Adventure with an Old Friend
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Having made a friend in the retired dancer and actress Madame Badobedah (Ba DOO beh dah) who lives in the Mermaid Hotel her parents manage, Mabel now has a comfortable routine with her new friend. The hotel is filled with all manner of quirky characters, and Mabel takes it upon herself to keep everyone in line. Mabel and Madame liek to go "larking" and enjoy digging up treasures that are buried on the beach. While they've never found treasures, Mabel does find a small, old coin. Having tea back in Madame's room, Mabel gets to choose a drawer in Madame's vast dressing table to open, and having done so, the two travel through the magic closet to return an object. They end up in the Natural History Museum, where some of the dinosaurs talk to them. Unfortunately, they have set off an invisible alarm system, and must hurry back to the warm hotel room to think about their adventures. Mabel enjoys her adventures with the former "evil villain", and looks forward to new ones.

Good Points
This is a longer picture book, something along the lines of Rumer Godden's Holly and Ivy or McPhail's Truffle: A Dog (and Cat) Story and would be more of a beginning chapter book if the trim size were smaller and there were fewer pictures. The illustrations have a 1920s feel to them, and since Madame has gone to the US to escape a war, that is a likely era.

This was delightfully quirky in a particularly British way, although Madame Badobedah would be right at home with MacDonald's Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle or Henn's Bad Nana. The magical closet and ensuing adventures will encourage young readers to come up with imaginative journeys of their own... perhaps AFTER they've had their elevenses!
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