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BETSY AND THE EMPEROR by Staton Rabin

BETSY AND THE EMPEROR

By Staton Rabin

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-689-85880-9
Publisher: McElderry

The bare bones of this inventive historical fiction is the unique friendship between Napoleon Bonaparte and 14-year-old Betsy Balcome, whose English family lived on St. Helena, where Napoleon was imprisoned. It’s the characterization of the two that puts flesh on the bones, craftily molding their personalities, as both of them really existed. Betsy’s insouciance and spunk was a match for “Boney’s” imperial nature and elite intelligence; they were kindred spirits both feeling imprisoned. From 1815–18 Betsy tried to invent ways for him to escape, including a daring attempt at building a hot-air balloon with silk dresses. Some plot developments are a bit contrived, though based on historical documentation, as the author’s notes cite. This fascinating story plays both with and against the stereotype of Napoleon. Even readers who don’t know of Bonaparte will be caught up in the interplay between girl and emperor and the surrounding drama of the world’s history—and their own. (Historical fiction. 10-14)