A timeless story celebrating friendship and imagination, from an exciting new voice in children's literature.

Mabel lives with her parents in The Mermaid Hotel, by the sea. Mabel likes to keep an eye on the comings and goings of all the guests. Then one day a particularly in-ter-est-ing old lady comes to stay. There is something very suspicious about her, with her growly voice and her heavy trunks and her beady-eyed tortoise. And why does no one know her REAL name? There can only be one answer, Mabel decides ... this guest is a SUPERVILLAIN.


Sophie Dahl began her working life as a teenage fashion model, but books and words were her first love. In 2003 she wrote Sunday Times bestseller The Man with the Dancing Eyes, an illustrated novella, which she followed in 2007 with her first novel, Playing with the Grown-ups. A devoted home-cook, Dahl has written two cookery books, From Season to Season and Sunday Times bestseller Miss Dahl’s Voluptuous Delights, in addition to writing and presenting two BBC prime time shows about food. She is a contributing editor at Conde Nast Traveller and was a long-time contributing editor at British Vogue, and she has written non-fiction essays for US Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Observer, Guardian and The Times. Sophie lives in the countryside with her husband, daughters, rescue dog, cat and tortoise. Madame Badobedah is her first book for children.

Lauren O’Hara is an illustrator from the north of England. As a child she loved reading fairy tales, painting insects and listening to her grandmother’s stories. She studied art and illustration at Kingston University and then designed window displays and props for films. Lauren’s career as an illustrator began when she and her sister, Natalia worked together on a picture book, Hortense and the Shadow. This was published in 2017 and followed in 2018 by The Bandit Queen. Lauren lives in a converted church in Dublin, Ireland with her partner, their cat Ida and assorted ghosts.


O’Hara’s illustrations perfectly match Dahl’s lively writing. The contrast between the Hotel Mermaid’s beach and the stormy scenes of Madame Badobedah’s past is especially powerful.Readers will be charmed by Mabel’s energy and by the mystery surrounding Madame Badobedah. Teachers and parents can use this book to discuss friendship, judging people based on first impressions and imagination.

CBCA: Reading Time

The story uncovers the facts about the Madame slowly, drawing more and more out with each small visit Mabel makes to this strange yet intriguing person. This makes the story enjoyable and keeps the reader interested…Parents and teachers could use this story to discuss the dangers of judging people from first impressions and the wide variety of friendships that work between many different people. The illustrations are quite charming and whimsical and compliment the story very well. However, I am not sure who this book is aimed at; it would be a great first novel for younger children but is presented as rather a long picture book format. Read over three sittings using the three parts as a natural break is probably the best way to introduce this story to the younger children. Recommended.


This is a story with heart, celebrating the wonderful world of imagination, with age as no barrier. And the soft, fantastical illustrations will draw you and the children into Mabel’s wonderful world.

Good Reading

Granddaughter of Roald has inherited the storytelling genes.

Australian Women’s Weekly

4 stars. A fantastic read for those seeking a little bit of adventure in their ordinary lives!


Author Sophie Dahl shows us what it means to be young at heart and that you are never too old to indulge in the playfulness and freedom of one’s imagination.

Kids Book Review


Parents’ Choice Award
CBI Children’s Book of the Year
Teach Primary
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