My Napoleon

Catherine Brighton, Author, Catherine Brighton, Illustrator Millbrook Press $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7613-0106-6
Brighton (Five Secrets in a Box) here tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Napoleon Bonaparte and Betsy Balcombe, an English girl living on St. Helena. Based on a memoir written by the grown-up Betsy, the text is presented in journal form, in the giggly confessional voice of a school girl, complete with numerous exclamation points. Expecting ""a huge giant with one large, flaming eye"" Betsy is surprised that the ""Very Important Prisoner, Napoleon"" (or ""V.I.P.N."") who will live in her family's house is no taller than she. After their first meeting, she confides, ""I think we shall be friends."" Her diary pages describe carriage rides and sumptuous dinners, Napoleon's declaration of love, their sad farewell and his subsequent death; on a more slapstick note, they describe being sick all over Napoleon's Turkish carpet and pushing him into a prickly pear bush. Those familiar with Napoleon's military career may find it disconcerting to meet him recast as a jolly, playful companion. And for a tale of a spirited girl's camaraderie with a history-making general, the quaint, prettified illustrations trivialize both girl and general. Betsy's cartoonishly impish face and parodic expressions of alarm, in consort with the journal's coyness, offer a domesticated, indulgent rendering of material with more promise. Ages 5-10. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
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