Sketches and interview by author Sarah Brannen
Madame Martine is a long-time resident of Paris. She and her dog, Max, live in the seventh arrondissement, on Rue du Gros Caillou, near the Eiffel Tower. They try something new every Saturday. We spoke on a recent chilly fall day in a café on Avenue de la Bourdonnais.
Sarah Brannen: It’s nice to see you again, madame. What new things have you and Max done lately?
Madame Martine: Well, we went to a tennis match last week! We saw Roger Federer play. He is very handsome. And also a good tennis player. In August we went to an opera performed out of doors.
SB: What opera was it?
MM: It was called Aida. We were very disappointed that there were no elephants. We wanted to see elephants. We saw elephants last spring in the circus—it was very exciting!
SB: Have you been back to the Eiffel Tower lately?
MM: Oh no. Dogs are not allowed, you know.
SB: Ah, that’s a good point. Now, madame, please tell me, what was the real reason you had never climbed the Eiffel Tower?
MM: Ouf. Alors. I suppose I must admit it. I am afraid of heights. My grandfather helped to build the tower. He hung on a harness from the highest level. He told me stories when I was a little girl, and I was terrified at the very thought!
SB: Well, you’ve climbed it now! By the way, what was the actual day you followed Max to the top?
MM: November 17. Do you want to know a secret?
SB: Of course! Do tell.
MM: It was my birthday! (Madame Martine got a fit of the giggles at this point and buried her face in Max’s fur.)
SB: What a perfect way to celebrate. Do you have any plans for your birthday this year?
MM: Well, since Max and I do something new every Saturday, we were thinking of picking one of our favorite new things and doing it again. I haven’t decided yet. Perhaps we’ll ride on the carousel again. Would you like that, Max? (Max barks.) Ah, you see, he likes the idea!
SB: Do you mind if I ask Max a few questions?
MM: Suit yourself. He doesn’t talk, you know.
SB: Max, sit! Good dog. What do you like best about living with Madame Martine?
SB: What’s your favorite place in Paris?
SB: Have you promised never to run away again?
MM: He is a very good dog. He does run away from time to time. He keeps me young! (She laughs.)
SB: May I ask you a rather personal question? Is there a…Monsieur Martine?
MM: Ah, non. Monsieur Martine died many years ago.
SB: My sympathies.
MM: C’est la vie.
SB: As you know, this interview will appear on a blog about children’s books. What was your favorite book when you were a child?
MM: Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Also Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man, by your American author Robert McCloskey.
MM: Mais oui. It is a wonderful book. You should read it.
SB: What’s next for you today? Shopping?
MM: Yes, we go to Rue Cler every day at about this time. I want to buy some cheese. And chicken and some mushrooms. (Max wags his tail.)
SB: Well, I won’t keep you. Thank you for chatting! Let’s do this again soon. Au revoir!
MM: That sounds delightful. À bientôt!