Jean de Brunhoff Frenchman Jean de Brunhoff is considered to be one of the greatest picture book authors in history. Born in Paris, de Brunhoff was the fourth and last child of a successful publisher. He enjoyed a prestigious education, before joining the French army and fighting on the front lines at the end of the First World War. After the armistice, he decided to become a professional artist and studied painting at the Academie de la Grand Chamiere in Montparnasse. De Brunhoff's wife Cecile, whom he married in 1924, was a successful pianist, and also contributed to her husband's success by coming up with the original idea for Babar. The couple had three sons (Laurent, 1925), (Mathieu, 1926) and Thierry (1934), and Babar first appeared as an unnamed baby elephant in a bedtime story told by Cecile to Laurent and Mathieu when they were six and five years old respectively. The next day the boys retold the story to their father, and the expanded and developed result was The Story of Babar (1931). Sadly, de Brunhoff soon discovered that he had tuberculosis, which obliged him to spend a lot of his time in a Swiss sanatorium. Yet he managed to produce a total of seven Babar books before his death at the age of 37. Since then, millions and millions of Babar books have been sold all around the world.
"If you love elephants, you will love Babar and Celeste," writes A. A. Milne in his preface to "The Story of Babar". "And if you have never loved elephants, you will love them now."