Laurent de Brunhoff, Writer of BABAR, Has Died at 98

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In 1931, French writer and illustrator Jean de Brunhoff published the first Babar book: Histoire de Babar (The Story of Babar). The Babar character began as a bedtime story for his young children, Mathieu and Laurent. Jean would go on to publish five more Babar books before dying of tuberculosis at just 37. Jean’s brother Michel organized the publication of two more uncompleted Babar books after Jean’s death, and 13-year-old Laurent helped with the illustrations.

Babar and the New Baby cover

Laurent went on to be an artist in his own right, and six years after his father’s passing, he continued the Babar series, modeling the elephants closely after the original books. He went on to publish more than 40 Babar books. His most recent title was Babar’s Guide to Paris, published in 2017.

Laurent acknowledged the racism and French colonialism in the first Babar books. In response to this critique, he told National Geographic in 2014, “I think it’s right. Absolutely. In some way, it’s a little embarrassing to see Babar fighting with Black people in Africa. My second book, Babar’s Picnic, was also inspired by my father’s drawing. Some years later, I felt embarrassed about this book, and I asked the publisher to withdraw it.”

Laurent de Brunhoff died of a stroke at 98 years old in his home in Key West, Florida.

You can read more about de Brunhoff at CNN.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.

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