‘She trailed the smell of old roses, spice and vanilla. Her hair was red and crunchy; a toffee apple without the stickiness. She wore a cloud of feathers around her neck. Her head poked out of them, like a cross ostrich pecking for grubs. That was when I named her Madame Badobedah… A good name for this growly-voiced, suitcase-heavy, feather-clad guest – VILLAIN – that I was one hundred and ten percent sure she was.’
Even before you open the exquisite pages of this book you will be charmed by the seriously beautiful cover illustration by Lauren O’Hara, of this very special picture book by writing royalty Sophie Dahl. Granddaughter of Roald Dahl, the expectations are high but you will not be disappointed with her first children’s book.
Mabel lives at The Mermaid Hotel. She is adventurous and inquisitive and likes to observe all that goes on behind the hotels doors. The picturesque hotel has a back door that leads down to the seaside, with colourful beach shacks lining it and a red and white striped lighthouse.
Mabel refers to herself as an adventurer and as such she doesn’t like being told what to do. She doesn’t like school too much, where she has to wear plimsolls that smell like cardboard. Mabel likes bare feet and adventure.
Guests come and go; there are some that Mabel refers to as delightful and others not so much. When a mysterious guest called Madame Badobedah sweeps into the foyer one day and insistently rings the bell, Mabel can only conclude that this awful stranger, who demands she help with her 23 bags, her dog, her two cats and a tortoise, is a villain and not just the regular kind but a super villain.
There is no other choice for Mabel, she must become a spy and closely observe this new guest to find out her secrets.
And so, she waits to catch her red handed but then one day Mabel is invited in to Madame Badobedah’s room where she begins to get to know the real Madame Bedobedah, and her secrets are revealed – is she a super villain, a mastermind criminal or while listening to her stories will Mabel discover the other secrets she’s hiding?
The story is full of adventure and mystery but also a heart-warming tale about people taking the time to get to know one another and friendship across the generations. The story is accompanied by whimsical illustrations of English seaside towns, along with seagulls, ships and nautical paraphernalia. Young readers will love seeing Mabel in her spy wear, with her pirate accoutrements and the glamorous Madame Badobedah.
There is a sense of timelessness about this story and there is no doubt that it will appeal to many young readers who love a good mystery, perhaps love to draw and admire the illustrations and also those who will use the story for the start of some role play about spies and pirates. 6+ readers will enjoy it independently, but this is one you’ll want to share and will be enjoyed by all ages when read out loud.
Sophie Dahl began her working life as a teenage fashion model, but books and words were her first love. In 2003 she wrote Sunday Times bestseller The Man with the Dancing Eyes, an illustrated novella, which she followed in 2007 with her first novel, Playing with the Grown-ups. A devoted home-cook, Dahl has written two cookery books, From Season to Season and Sunday Times bestseller Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights, in addition to writing and presenting two BBC prime time shows about food. She is a contributing editor at Conde Nast Traveller and was a long-time contributing editor at British Vogue, and she has written non-fiction essays for US Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Observer, Guardian and The Times. Sophie lives in the countryside with her husband, daughters, rescue dog, cat and tortoise. Madame Badobedah is her first book for children.
Lauren O’Hara is an illustrator from the north of England. As a child she loved reading fairy tales, painting insects and listening to her grandmother’s stories. She studied art and illustration at Kingston University and then designed window displays and props for films. Lauren’s career as an illustrator began when she and her sister, Natalia worked together on a picture book, Hortense and the Shadow. This was published in 2017 and followed in 2018 by The Bandit Queen. Lauren lives in a converted church in Dublin, Ireland with her partner, their cat Ida and assorted ghosts.