I can’t remember how I came across Alice Briere-Haquet and Csil’s Madame Eiffel: The Love Story of the Eiffel Tower (Little Gestalten, 2015) but I put it on my to-read list immediately. I’m so happy to be sharing this book, originally written in French, with you today.
The story of the deep love between Eiffel, an engineer, and his wife Cathy, Madame Eiffel is about the resilience and beauty that can come from the news of an irreversible illness.
Here’s what I like about this book:
(1) It’s a hopeful story of enduring love and terminal illness. Having just celebrated my 8th wedding anniversary, I was particularly touched by the love between Eiffel and Cathy. Whereas there is a certain emotional rawness to the book (Cathy suffers from an unknown terminal illness for which the doctors can do nothing), there is also a beautiful ending that makes us all hopeful. This is a good book to share with kids who are developmentally ready to discuss the loss of a loved one.
(2) I love the color palette of pink and black. The two-color scheme really works. The black, pencil-like drawings dominate the book, and the pink comes in at moments of high emotion. Not that the black is absent during all the emotional parts, but the pink in the book definitely give readers a reason to pause and reflect on its significance. This book is great if you are doing a lesson on color symbolism or on teaching about illustrations as they relate to text meaning in children’s books.
(3) It rhymes without being too childish. Usually, I’m not too much of a fan of what I call sing-songy books, books that seem to be more focused on whether the words rhyme than if the rhymes are part of a good story. Madame Eiffel is not like that. The rhymes are there but not in a way that detracts from the story.
(4) It’s a story about the reader’s changes rather than the characters’ changes. This book, as I state below, moves quickly. There is not a lot of plot development, and we do not see a lot of character transformation. This book appears much more about how readers change and think differently at the end than how the characters in the book change. And I think that is refreshing.
Here is one thing I am not so sure about:
(1) Cathy’s quick demise. The problem, that is, Cathy’s sickness is put upon readers right at the story’s beginning. I felt a bit jolted when she became ill right away. A few more pages to help readers get to know Eiffel and Cathy might have made the book a bit stronger.
Let me know what you think of Madame Eiffel in the comments below!