On a cobblestoned street in the ancient city of Bruges, a hotel with a golden basket on its roof admits a trio of weary travelers: a father and two little girls, Celeste and Melisande. The next morning, the sisters awake to the thrill of discovering a new country and meeting new friends, including Jan, the innkeeper's son, and Monsieur Carnewal, the hardworking, warmhearted maître d'hôtel. The girls discover a world of imaginative fun within the hotel itself as well as in the picturesque city of medieval buildings and towers, where graceful swans swim in the canals and a lamplighter makes his daily rounds. Inspired by a trip to Belgium, author Ludwig Bemelmans drew upon his youthful experiences at his family's Austrian inn to perfectly recapture the setting of an Old World hotel. This charmingly illustrated tale, originally published in 1936, is the second of Bemelmans's many books. A brief cameo by a mischievous French schoolgirl -- the first appearance of the author's iconic character, Madeline--offers a hint of the joys to come.
The recipient of both the Caldecott and Newbery awards, Ludwig Bemelmans (1898-1962) is best remembered as the creator of the Madeline books. He grew up in Austria, emigrated to America in his youth, and became a U.S. citizen after serving in World War I. In addition to dozens of books for adults as well as children, Bemelmans wrote movie scripts and was an internationally renowned gourmet.