From a franchise as sturdy as an elephant’s memory comes explicit international goodwill.
Celesteville is hosting the Worldwide Games, and animals arrive “from all over” to compete. Babar’s children, “now grown up,” watch the athletes in warm-ups, practices and matches. Pom and Isabelle enjoy the swimming and diving: Elephants, hippos and a big cat (lioness perhaps?) power gracefully though a pool in neat lanes; next, an elephant dives off a springboard, the illustration showing five sequential positions in the somersault. Flora and Alexander prefer track and field and gymnastics (“Who would have thought that hippos were almost as good at the high bar as elephants?”). Watching, Flora falls in love with pole-vaulter Coriander, an athlete from a foreign land. Here the story segues into a gentle cultural acceptance lesson: Flora’s mother Celeste must adjust to Cory’s “small ears,” a trait of his Mirzi nationality, and Cory’s parents must accept that he didn’t choose “a girl from Mirza.” Flora roots for Mirza in the sporting events, which concerns Celeste until Babar reassures her, “I think it is love. And I think it will be good for all of us.” The wedding takes places in Celesteville but with Mirzi clothing and customs, an agreement that pleases everyone.
Modernized only minimally (texting!), the book’s appeal lies in these calmingly recognizable characters participating in Olympic sports and a mixed marriage.(Picture book. 4-6)