About Jean de Brunhoff, author / artist of Le Voyage de Babar
Author / artist Jean de Brunhoff, (1899 - 1937) is credited as the father of the modern picturebook
Jean de Brunhoff is the creator and author / artist of the first seven Babar books. After his untimely death in 1937, his eldest son Laurent de Brunhoff continued his father’s famous work with a series of new books. There have also been television cartoon series, and even feature-length animated films, and also the only other concertwork sanctioned for a Babar book, French composer Francis Poulenc’s L’histoire de Babar of 1940, a setting of Jean de Brunhoff’s first book, telling the story of the birth of Babar up through his coronation and marriage with Céleste.
But The Travels of Babar (Le Voyage de Babar), the second book of the series — where Babar & Céleste venture off on their honeymoon in that famous yellow balloon — remains one of the most popular of them all, indeed one of the best-known and most popular picturebooks of all time the world over. First published in France in 1932, Jean de Brunhoff's The Travels of Babar is a perennial favorite. Random House has kept it continuously in print for over seventy years in the U.S.
Renowned author artist Maurice Sendak writes: "My favorite among Jean [de Brunhoff]'s books, The Travels of Babar, is full of alarming and amusing twists of fate...a tour de force of composition...no one before, and very few since, has utilized the double-spread illustration to such dazzling, dramatic effect.
"Babar is at the very heart of my conception of what turns a picture book into a work of art.… Beneath the pure fun, the originality of style, and the vivacity of imagination is a serious and touching theme: a father writing to his sons and voicing his natural concern for their welfare, for their lives … Jean's bequest to his family, and the world, shines from the books."
In his introduction to The Travels of Babar, author A. A. Milne, himself the creator of another icon of childhood, Winnie-the-Pooh, noted, "If you love elephants, you will love Babar and Celeste. If you have never loved elephants, you will love them now. If you who are grown-up have never been fascinated by a picture book before, then this is the one which will fascinate you." Milne ended by saying, "I salute M. de Brunhoff. I am at his feet."
Raphael Mostel’s Travels of Babar goes Jean de Brunhoff's picturebook one better: An entertainment not only for the young - who will delight in (while effortlessly being educated about) music - but for adults too, as a charming entertainment and a sophisticated musical tour de force.
The narration of Mostel’s Travels of Babar is the text of this classic book, which may be read in any language. In English it has been updated with a brand new English translation prepared and sanctioned especially for Mostel's work by renowned author Phyllis Rose — who also happens to be the wife of Laurent de Brunhoff. Similarly there are new translations for Mostel’s work in Spanish by Marjorie Agosin, and in German by Tine Kindermann. More to follow.
The Babar books are filled with references to music, perhaps because Jean’s wife, Cécile de Brunhoff, was an accomplished pianist. She was a protègée of Alfred Cortot and taught piano at the École Normale in Paris. The youngest of their three sons, Thierry de Brunhoff, also became a renowned pianist before retiring to become a monk.