Title: Madame Badobedah
Author: Sophie Dahl
Illustrator: Lauren O’Hara
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Children’s fiction
Book format: Hardback
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Description: The Mermaid Hotel is the BEST place to live if you’re an adventurer.  There are rooms to explore, guests to spy on and secrets just waiting to be discovered…
Mabel likes to keep an eye on all the comings and goings at The Mermaid Hotel.  When a mysterious old lady moves in, with her growly voice, heavy trunks and beady-eyed tortoise, Mabel is suspicious and vows to watch her every move.  Because this guest, Mabel decides, is a SUPERVILLAIN.  But even supervillains have a soft side, and as an unlikely friendship grows between the pair, their fantastical exploits take them well beyond the corridors of their seaside home.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  This is a funny book with an interesting story of an unlikely friendship that shows just how children’s imagination can go over the top. ‘Madame Badobedah’ is about A4 in size and is filled with thick matt pages of both text and colourful illustrations. The hardback features a lovely cover hidden under the dust jacket. Mabel lives at the Mermaid Hotel, a hotel that’s really just a bed and breakfast which her parents run. One day a new guest arrives at the hotel and to Mabel, she looks like a supervillain. So Mabel sets about spying on the old woman, to find out exactly why she’s staying at the hotel and what she’s going to do.

Madame Badobedah under dust jacket image
©The Strawberry Post

The story is very imaginative and is written in a different way to a lot of stories. Mabel talks to us directly and the way she narrates is very much the way a child talks or thinks. Like many children with an overactive imagination, Mabel gets the wrong idea about Madame Badobedah, but when she’s caught by the old woman one day, spying outside her room, she’s invited in and an interesting friendship begins. The story continues with us finding out more about the guest, we find out more about who she really is and something about her past but throughout it all there are moments when Mabel’s imagination take over and she and Madame Badobedah are doing things like sailing the sea in a ship or making their way to a secret location beyond a cupboard. The story really shows just how children can turn any place they are in, into an immaginary world. I can still remember doing that when I was young, even involving my mum in my imaginative world, so I can see how well this is depicted here.

Madame Badobedah book page image one
©The Strawberry Post


There are illustrations throughout the story and they are very good. I love how expressive Mabel looks and the way she is shown spying and looking suspiciously at Madame Badobedah. There’s something about these illustrations I really do enjoy, I’ve seen O’Hara’s work in another book before and I really liked it but this one is so colourful and so immaginative I like it even more and it fits really well with the story. I’m sure many children will enjoy these pictures too.

Madame Badobedah book page image two
©The Strawberry Post


This book is quite funny and although the ending is a nice one, it did feel a bit odd to me. I’m not sure why, but the story ends in a way that just feels a bit too flat for me, too fast, like I was expecting a little more to happen. It felt like it could have had more but just stops. Mabel continues to see Madame Badobedah the same way right to the end, although a lovely friendship has occurred in the meantime, she still doesn’t change her view of her as a supervillain. Although I do think I would have liked looking at this book as a child myself, I really like the illustrations, the story’s end is just not one that I enjoyed so much and I’m not sure I would have personally enjoyed it as much as some have.

What do you think of this book?  Have you or your children ever enjoyed imaginative adventures near the sea?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂