The original Babar books were a series written and illustrated by Jean de Brunhoff. The first was published in 1931 in France, and five more followed. The publisher of the English-language versions is Random House. After the author died, the series was continued by his son, Laurent, who added a few dozen more titles.


Jean's books about Babar the elephant are better-drawn and more imaginative, but Laurent's are free of his father's obsession with death and tragedy. Jean's first story, The Story of Babar, has the strangest beginning in all the history of children's literature. The first scene shows little Babar frolicking with other little elephants. In the next, he is riding happily on the back of his mother. Then in the next, she lies dead, slaughtered by a hunter. The author presents this tragedy in almost an offhand way before quickly moving on to Babar's amusing adventures as an orphan. Death reappears at the end of the story, when the elephant king dies, and tragedy persists as a major theme of the whole series. The dark overtones of Jean's books may arise from his place in history, a Frenchman poised between the horrors of World War I and World War II. Or they may reflect his sense that he himself would soon die from tuberculosis. Yet he never dwells on tragedy. Rather, he always quickly resolves it with a happy turn of events. Perhaps he was trying to teach his own children, his original audience, to accept loss without being devastated by it.

Titles of Jean de Brunhoff's Babar books

The Story of Babar (1931)

The Travels of Babar (1932)

Babar the King (1933)

A.B.C. of Babar (1934)

Zephir's Holidays (1936)

Babar and His Children (1938)

Babar and Father Christmas (1941)

Titles of Laurent de Brunhoff's books

Babar's Cousin: That Rascal Arthur (1948)

Babar's Picnic (1949)

Babar's Visit to Bird Island (1952)

Babar's Fair (1954)

Babar and the Professor (1956)

Babar's Castle (1961)

Babar Comes to America (1965)

Babar Learns to Cook (1967)

Babar Loses His Crown (1967)

Babar's Games (1968)

Babar's Moon Trip (1969)

Babar's Trunk (1969)

Babar's Birthday Surprise (1970)

Babar's Other Trunk (1971)

Babar Visits Another Planet (1972)

Babar's Bookmobile (1974)

Babar and the Wully-Wully (1975)

Babar Saves the Day (1976)

Babar's Mystery (1978)

Babar the Magician (1980)

Babar's Little Library (1980)

Babar's Little Circus Star (1988)

Babar and the Succotash Bird (2000)


All the titles in the original series are available in recent compilations, but many in the second series are out-of-print and hard to obtain.


Ages 2-7.