Mabel is a young girl living in the Mermaid Hotel, where her parents work. There’s always something to see and do at the Mermaid, but when a mysterious, somewhat eccentric old lady moves in, Mabel puts on her detective hat. Madame Badobedah, as Mabel calls her, has simply got to be a supervillain. When Mabel begins investigating Madame Badobedah, she discovers a much softer, kinder, friendlier woman, and the two unlikely friends explore the hotel – and beyond – together.
This is a sweet story of intergenerational friendships, with a Dahl-esque fantastic twist (Sophie Dahl is author Roald Dahl’s granddaughter). Mabel is a smart, curious girl a la Harriet the Spy; Madame Badobedah is a fabulously exotic, mysterious figure that readers can’t help but be drawn to: “She was old, old, old. With red lips. She was not alone. She had two dogs, two cats, a tortoise, and twenty-three bags, all clustered around her like a choir. I thought she might be a little awful”, as Mabel describes her. She calls people “Darlink”, and has “red, crunchy hair”. Dahl’s descriptions are vivid and wonderfully brought to life by Lauren O’Hara, whose watercolor illustrations add a surreal touch to this incredible story. Blue and white beachy endpapers really put the reader into a spring/summer mindset.
Originally published in the UK in 2019, I’m very happy to be welcoming Sophie Dahl to US readers. Great for a read-aloud to school-age readers, Madame Badobedah also allows for an art/English exercise where kids can draw their own versions of Madame Badobedah, a room in the Mermaid Hotel, or where their own hidden corridor would lead to.
Madame Badobedah has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.