The new Madeline children's book, Madeline at the White House, takes only about 10 minutes of easy reading to finish.
But the book took 50 years to write.
John Bemelmans Marciano, the author and illustrator who took over his grandfather Ludwig Bemelmans' beloved series 10 years ago, explains why.
"The idea for Madeline visiting the White House was something my grandfather first thought about doing in 1961," Marciano says. "He and the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, discussed collaborating on the book, which would have been called Madeline Visits Caroline. Their letters, I believe, are still on display at the Kennedy Library in Boston.
"But my grandfather died in 1962 before any work on the book ever really began."
Leaving it to Marciano to take over the project a half century later.
Marciano will be Barnes & Noble, 1430 Plaza Place, Southlake, at 5 p.m. Monday to sign copies.
Marciano never met his famous grandfather, whose first book about the little French girl with red hair and an indomitable spirit was published in 1939.
Marciano was born nearly a decade after Bemelmans died. But he became well acquainted with his grandfather's work in the late 1990s while researching and writing his biography, Bemelmans: The Life and Art of Madeline's Creator.
After that, Marciano decided he, too, could mix paint strokes with poetry and continue the Madeline series. Madeline at the White House (Viking, $17.99) is his fourth Madeline book.
"I feel like my grandfather died too young," Marciano says. "He was 62, but he was young in the sense that his skills as a painter were really reaching a new level. He was doing amazing work when he passed away, and I feel like some of his unrealized projects could have been among his best.
"So completing this book represents something quite important to me."
Marciano has no idea whether Madeline at the White House has been read in the White House yet.
"That would be great if it happened," he says, "but I think the Obama girls are a little bit older than the target audience."
That said, Marciano constantly meets Madeline fans of all ages.
"I did a talk at NYU with a group of panelists and afterward this one woman -- who was in her 60s, she's also a successful author -- came up to me," Marciano says. "She practically recited the whole book to me and then told me how, when she was growing up in Haiti, Madeline was the most important book to her because it kind of gave her an idea about there being a world outside of Haiti.
"It's just an amazing statement -- not just about Madeline, but about books in general -- as to what books can mean to children."
Personal stories such as that one are always gratifying to hear, Marciano says. But it also used to be somewhat intimidating when he first tried his hand writing at a "Madeline" book.
"It took a long time for me to come to terms with the idea that continuing the series is a completely good thing," he says. "I'm not my grandfather and, if I do some things that aren't quite the same as in the originals, that's OK.
"It's like, I grew up loving comic books: Superman, Batman, Green Lantern. All of these characters were kept alive and fresh by new people who brought new things to them. And that's what I'm trying to do with Madeline.
"I don't want the new books to be static. So I'll introduce a new character, a different location. It's important to me to take Madeline places and to do things that are still within my grandfather's realm, because he put so much of himself into those books, but it's also important to explore new territory."