Saturday, Jan. 3, 1998 | 1:39 a.m.
The cartoon elephant king who has taught children about life and language for almost 70 years will be available at Kent State University this summer.
School officials say they will add a collection about the North African elephant to its children's literature collection and may use the character in the study of language, history, sociology, graphic design, publishing and marketing.
A Nevada man left the northeastern Ohio university an eclectic $200,000 collection of Babar memorabilia - everything from tiny chocolates to a 6-foot FAO Schwarz floor model of the French pachyderm who wears a green suit and sparkling crown.
The 3,600-piece collection, which includes first-edition Babar books, toys and collectibles, is scheduled to open in August.
"The collection is a treasure trove. It's significant and unique," said Ann Hildebrand, a Kent State English professor and Babar scholar.
Babar was born in 1931, when French author Jean de Brunhoff published the "Histoire de Babar," or "The Story of Babar."
The late John L. Boonshaft of Las Vegas chose to leave his collection to Kent. He considered the University of Minnesota, which has a major collection of children's literature, and the Library of Congress, but decided on Kent after the university agreed to keep it intact.
"At Minnesota or the Library of Congress, it would have been another collection," Ms. Hildebrand said. "Here, it will be a major part of a budding children's collection."
Boonshaft, whose grandparents were from Dayton, died in August. Ms. Hildebrand became friends with Boonshaft after she interviewed him for her book, "Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff: The Legacy of Babar."
Jean de Brunhoff began illustrating the bedtime stories his wife told their children. His son Laurent continued the series after his father's death.
Ms. Hildebrand says Boonshaft would be proud of the new exhibit.
"We never dreamed of this. It is just sad that it came here without him," she said.