Hello Kitty Has A Passport

I love Parents magazine’s “Small World” series that looks at childhood’s global connections.

This month, the magazine looked at the countries of origin for some childhood icons including Hello Kitty (Japan), Winnie the Pooh (England), Babar (France), and Pinocchio (Italy).

I thought it would be fun to find out more about some other childhood favorites and there were some surprises.

Madeline was written by Ludwig Bemelmans and you would think that it was originally created in Paris, the city in which Madeline’s story is set.

But the truth is more interesting. Bemelmans was born in Austria to a Belgian father and German mother. When he was six his parents separated and his mother took him and his brother back to her native Germany to raise them.

As a young man, Bemelmans worked as an apprentice in his uncle’s hotel but when he shot and wounded a co-worker he was ordered to either be institutionalized or leave for America. He chose America and eventually wrote the Madeline series.

I love the ultimatum the judge gave him:  live the rest of your life in an institution or go to America. I wonder how difficult that decision was for him?

Another favorite – at least for my son – was Caillou.

Caillou first aired on Canadian television but it was originally a book by author Christine L’Heureux and illustrator Hélène Desputeaux. The word “caillou” means pebble, stone, or bald head in French, which is probably how the bald little guy got his name.

To the best of my knowledge, Big Bird and Barney are both American but there’s no conclusive evidence that Grover is from the planet Earth.

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