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The Story of Babar

(Babar #1)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  57,374 ratings  ·  457 reviews
The first of the tales starring the most famous elephant in the literary world.

In this classic that has delighted three generations of readers, Babar escapes from the hunter who killed his mother and comes to town. Here, with the help of an old friend, he will learn a lot of new things and one day, once returned to the great forest, he will be acclaimed King of the eleph
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published September 12th 1937 by Random House Books for Young Readers (first published 1931)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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 ·  57,374 ratings  ·  457 reviews

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Brian Yahn
Jan 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
Aside from endorsing Colonialism, Jean de Brunhoff makes light of death by killing off Babar's mother on page two, quickly moving on and completely ignoring it. I'm sorry, but for a child's mother to die, that's a pretty big deal, and two pages later, that child shouldn't be totally over it and having fun riding an elevator and buying new shoes. He should be mourning, or trying to learn how to deal with loss.

All of this could maybe be overlooked if The Story of Babar had a positive message, but
This is a story about a very strange older rich lady who enjoys spending her money on elephants apparently. Not really, but it is a strange lady to spend her riches on elephant clothes and she gives this elephant her car, not a cheap gift.

The story is about Babar the elephant and his journey from his mother being shot out from under him and killed by a hunter, his run to the city where he meets the old woman and then how he wears clothes and acts like a human. This is from 1933 and it’s an inter
Mar 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
I'm not planning to add children's books to my page, but this one really took my breath away as I read it to my one year old one night.

First of all, Babar's mother is shot on like page two. There she is lying dead with the gloating hunter holding his rifle. Yikes! Little orphan Babar meekly watches on, barely a tear in his elephant eye.

However, this isn't enough to warrant a review. It's what comes next. Babar's story then unfolds as some bizarre French colonial wish fulfillment. Babar, followin
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Oh, dear. I'm afraid this is one children's classic that I did not like at all upon reading as an adult. I can appreciate the iconic illustrations and can certainly see why Babar made an enduring character, especially when the books were first published, as probably many children found the antics of an elephant in the city humorous, and dressed in his gentlemanly attire he certainly makes an interesting contrast from the other creatures of the forest. However, I really did not enjoy the story an ...more
Eva Marie
Aug 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: julias-books
3.5 - Has anyone else read any of the reviews left here?!?! Holy shit! Get a grip people! This is Babar, it's a book for children for God's sake. "Gasp! A dead elephant! Good heavens!", "Gasp! Don't go to the white people's city Babar or else I can't read this to my kids!", "Oh my gosh! Tell me that's not a gun! That character can't be hunting, can he?"
Good Lord. I'd hate to spend a day with these people. I don't like hunting. I don't mind guns. But Lord keep me, is it really THAT big of a deal?
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hilary by: Found in the library
This story starts at the beginning, Babars mother is shot by a hunter. Babar escapes capture and runs to a town where he is given some money to buy clothes and first meets his friend the Old Lady. Although he likes his new life he misses the Great Forest and decides to return. Unfortunately the old King had just eaten a bad mushroom and died so when Babar turns up in all his smart clothes and they are looking for a new King, he is the obvious choice. After a wedding, a coronation and lots of dan ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a really great way to show people what 'colonization' is. It historically makes sense that a writer in France in the 30's would produce a story like this. At this point, this book seems more inline for someone who is studying children's literature rather than for a child who is looking to be entertained. Since i'm closer to the former (and was also pretty entertained!) I gave this a higher rating. Don't recommend for kids. ...more
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
The story was okay, but somethings I found really unlogical. An elephant that has clothes? The death of the mom was quickly pushed away. The drawings could have been beter also.
Odd little childrens book. A minor quibble, elephants live in a matriarchy, so not only is this not educational its actively uneducational :P .
I'm sure there must be some other versions of this book but the one i read had hand-written text!, and in cursive! Even i had issues deciphering a word here or there but i can only imagine the horror on a child's face if they were handed this :lol. And their growing horror if they actually managed to figure out what it says ;) .

There are several dark mo
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was ok
I remember being in love with Babar as a child, but I'm thinking they must have been the updated stories. Not only did my preschooler not really enjoy this lengthy tale, I was almost too embarrassed to keep reading! I knew going in that it was a colonial allegory, but geez! I mean we see his mom shot and killed and Babar is sad, but he's ok by the next day because a rich old lady wants to buy him some clothes! Then he goes out to civilize his former herd (who of course want to make him king beca ...more
Jan 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite picture books. I actually have both an English and French version of this too. My mom got it for me when she went to France. I can't read it in French though. Sometime I should read both side to side. Might help me learn some basic French. I like the non-translated one for the art. ...more
Shirley Revill
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids, children, fiction
I really enjoyed this book when I was a child and still love it today.
Apr 03, 2015 rated it did not like it
I just thought I'd save you the trouble of reading this stupid kid's book by writing everything that happens.

There's an elephant named Babar who has a pretty good life and is being raised by a great mom. Then she's murdered by hunters right in from of him. He runs away to the city where an old woman takes him in. Honestly, I think they're a bit more than friends if you catch my drift. Years pass before two random elephants come running to the city too. And who do they find? Babar and his old lad
Aug 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens
This was my 5 yr old's choice for his "on his own" reading today. And he was sorely disappointed. I had read some of this as a child but I didn't remember any of it. But when I started asking my son what it was about he got upset and started listing all the reasons he hated it. The king dies? Babar's mother gets killed by hunters? And on top of all that, he said, he doesn't even like elephants! So there. I'm not a politically correct person when it comes to discerning what my child reads. If he' ...more
Jan 14, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: picture-books
Babar is a shopaholic? After his mother is murdered and he is chased by the hunter who did, his first desire is some sharp looking threads? And when Celeste and Arthur visit him for the first time in the city, what does he do? Buy them clothes of course! And when he returns with Celeste and Arthur to the jungle in his swanky new car(nice image there; Celeste and Arthur's mothers have to run behind the car with their trunks held up to avoid the belching smoke), what does he do when told ...more
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens
As a child I was drawn to Babar (a name I just recently learned is pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable --buh-BAR) partly because the books were written in cursive handwriting. At five, I couldn’t decipher the curly letters, but oh, how I wanted to.

When I could at last read the words, I felt as if I’d cracked some sort of ancient code, so the books always felt quite magical to me. The French names only added to the mystique.

Little did I know the books would be later denounced for th
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: childrens
This book has a lot of issues that I was uncomfortable with. First, Babar's mother is killed by a hunter, but at the end of the book when Babar sets up his perfect elephant society, the idea that a human can come in a shoot a citizen is never addressed. Second, Babar has no experience that would make him a good king other than having lived in a "civilized" city. He is provided for by a rich woman and his transformative experience is shopping. He has no accomplishments of his own. Additionally, t ...more
Oct 10, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: kindergarteners and early elementary
Shelves: younger-kids
Babar's mom is killed by hunters, so he goes off to the big city and is taken in by a rich old lady who happens to like elephants and he becomes her boy toy. After living there for a couple of years, he returns to the rest of the elephants where he is immediately crowned king (the reason? because he has lived with men) and, at the same time, marries his cousin Celeste.

I just could not get into this beloved classic. My son was mildly interested, only because he recognized it from a Babar cartoon
Apr 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book was confusing to me.

Babar has his mother killed in front of him. I thought this would turn out into a similar story to Bambi, but I was wrong.

Oh so wrong.

Suddenly, Babar leaves the jungle and assimilates with the humans (he doesn't hate them for what happened to his mother? or scared of them?).

His cousins join him later and later they all return to the jungle beause the cousin's family was looking for them. Afterward Babar becomes king and his cousin bride becomes queen.

Confused? So a
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My father loved to read this book to me when I was a child. He made it come alive! Reading it today to my first graders it brings back those warm memories....
Oct 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This story was selected as one of the books for the November 2012 - Classic Picture Book Characters reads at the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group here at Goodreads.

I know I read this book (or others in the series) when I was very young, but so far I had not read this book with our girls. It was much as I remembered it, but somehow I don't think this book has withstood the test of time. It seems so dated and just isn't all that engaging.

The illustrations are very recognizable, an
Michelle (Sherbet Lemon)
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 / 5

Ok, so given this review clearly I liked the story more than I disliked it. It is fun in a lot of ways, but this is what prevented it from getting a higher rating:

- Babar's mom dies and he's immediately over it. This isn't really a "spoiler" either, it happens on page 2
- the old woman reads his mind when he wants nice clothes and just ups and gives him her wallet ??? because clearly strange elephants must want nice clothes and also wouldn't need to communicate's just o
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-ya, own
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
My fourth book for Banned Books Week. This was a pretty fun book to read, though also sad (in the beginning).
Jane Scholey
I love the Babar stories.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
While this is a classic, I don’t want to read this book to my kid anymore. I don’t like the messages about colonialism or trivializing the death of Babar’s mom, etc.
Nice illustrations tho.
Nov 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Not Sure...
Originally published in 1931 as Histoire de Babar, le petite éléphant, this classic children's picture-book, the first of a number of titles to chronicle the adventures of its eponymous elephantine hero, has sparked quite a bit of debate in the field of children's literature. Condemned by some as a colonialist fantasy - most notably, see Herbert R. Kohl's Should We Burn Babar?: Essays on Children's Literature and the Power of Stories - and defended by others as a comic parody of that fantasy ...more
Keith Kavanagh
Feb 06, 2021 rated it liked it
what the fuck he marries his cousin
This was a story I had when I was little. It was back-to-back with an abridged version of Heidi. But apparently Babar had not been abbreviated.

The illustrations were simple and cute; Babar digging in the sand with a shell was rather idyllic. However, even as a child, I thought it odd that Babar could ride on his mother's back; I didn't think it was possible for the run-of-the-mill baby elephant. However, Babar was destined to be king, so perhaps he was special. I got a chuckle out of him riding
Heidi Hart
May 29, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: children-s-books
My kids got this book as a hand-me-down from someone (the inscription on the cover is "To Ben, Christmas 1974," but we don't have any Ben's in the immediate family), and lately my three-year-old has been requesting it almost every night. Frankly, as with many French things, I don't see the appeal.

The story is just trippy and bizarre. Babar is born in a forest and cavorts with cousins until one day a hunter kills his mama. It's very sad for about half a sentence, and then Babar runs off to a city
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Jean de Brunhoff was a French writer and illustrator known for co-creating Babar, which first appeared in 1931. The stories were originally told to their second son, Mathieu, when he was sick, by his wife Cecile de Brunhoff. After its first appearance, six more titles followed. He was the fourth and last child of Maurice de Brunhoff, a successful publisher, and his wife Marguerite. He attended Pro ...more

Other books in the series

Babar (1 - 10 of 163 books)
  • The Travels of Babar (Babar, #2)
  • Babar the King (Babar, #3)
  • ABC De Babar
  • Babar and Zephir
  • Babar and His Children
  • Babar and Father Christmas
  • Babar: The Race to the Moon (Babar Series)
  • Babar's Birthday Surprise
  • Babar and His Friends at the Farm
  • Babar's Kingdom (Little Babar books)

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