ISBN 0590039105 - Madeline's last book might, just by coincidence, be the best way for her to exit. The only potential negative is that, by bundling it in with three other stories, the sense of farewell, and of a glimpse at her future, is diluted.
A preface by John Bemelmans Marciano, the grandson of Madeline creator Ludwig Bemelmans, explains how this book came to be published after the author's death.
In the first story, Madeline in America, Madeline receives a cable, informing her of the death of her great-grandfather. She and the girls, along with Miss Clavel, head to his ranch in Texas for the reading of the will over Christmas. Overwhelmed by the lavish and carefree life she envisions, Madeline is all set to drop out of school until Great-Grandad's will is read. It says she will inherit when she is 21 and must, until then, attend school. There is very little actual focus on money, here, other than the excitement of little kids at getting gifts. It's Christmas, that's normal!
The second story, The Count and the Cobbler, is a short story about a cobbler who, as the saying goes, has the most poorly shod children of all. A sale to a rich count and the surprising brilliance of his youngest child leads to shoes for all, in time for them to be able to go out and sing Christmas carols.
The third story is unusual, in that it's a true story. A Bemelmans Christmas Memory is by Barbara Bemelman, the daughter of Ludwig. In it, she tells about some of her childhood holidays, including her favorite memory of Christmas 1949. At "21" on Christmas Eve, she and her family watch as a group of Salvation Army volunteers go from table to table, soliciting donations from the restaurant's well-dressed, well-off clientele. She is proud that her parents AREN'T the best dressed, and certain that her father's donation was the largest of all. It's a very short tale, but a nice one, especially since it's a child who takes note of what is important.
The fourth and final story, Sunshine, tells of a man who would like to rent out an apartment - if only he could find the right tenant. Unfortunately, the "right" tenant doesn't seem to exist! When he finally does find that perfect, quiet tenant, he's in for a surprise. Miss Moore runs a music school, among other disturbing things. Try as he might, he can't get her out of his apartment building and eventually, at Christmastime, he realizes he doesn't, really, want to.
The illustrations are typical Madeline for the most part; if you're not a fan, you're not going to become one now. The least well-done are some of those in the final story, with most of them being black sketches on backgrounds of purple or yellow. On the other hand, the full-color illustrations in that final story more than make up for the less-attractive ones. The Christmas theme here is a very thin strand to hang an anthology on, but Madeline's fans won't mind that a bit! This oversized book is one that you really need, to top off that collection.