Madeleine’s World: A Biography of a Three-Year-Old


What might it feel like to be six months old?  To have only recently discovered that your hands are your own and that not all round things are breasts?  Or to be two years old, and to wonder what the moon is, and whether it’s farther away than airplanes or the flies on the ceiling?  What might be the feeling of your first inkling that you have a past?  That you can imagine something that isn’t true?  That your parents are fallible?  That things die, and so will you?

That you are a person with a history.

This book is a biography of Brian Hall’s daughter, Madeleine.  Like traditional biographies, it begins with its subject’s birth.  Unlike them, it ends on her third birthday.  Along the way, it records achievements more monumental and disillusionments more devastating than the run of adult biographies.  It is a map of an expanding world in which dragons still roam, but terra incognita is pushed inexorably back.

Sharply observed, funny, irreverent and at times profoundly disconcerting, Madeleine’s World tracks the rising arc of a new mind.  Parent or not, if you’re reading these words, you’ve survived those first three years on the planet.  Here’s your chance to remember how it’s done.


“Hall stuns with his observational powers and emotional truth . . . [He] succeeds dazzlingly at making his daughter and the toddler sensibility come alive.” —The Los Angeles Times.

“Hall brims with imaginative and convincing interpretations of his daughter’s every eye-movement from birth onwards, his antennae sharpened—but never biased—by love . . . One re-experiences the world through Madeleine’s eyes, and her closing words about death are so full of human hope I cried.”  —The Observer (London)

“Contemplating his baby’s incremental journey to the age of three provides meaty, endlessly perplexing material . . . Unflaggingly intelligent.”  —The Village Voice

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