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The Picture Book Buzz

Bonaparte Falls Apart - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Friendship, back to school, and Halloween what a great mash-up. Bring your favorite Halloween characters - skeletons, witches, Frankenstein, and mummies - back to their impish childhood and you get a hilarious tale packed with puns, repetition and internal rhymes that begs for multiple re-reads. Jumble in back-to-school fears and you have a timeless book. Who wouldn't want to "bone up for the first day of school"?

Bonaparte Falls Apart

Author: Margery Cuyler

Illustrator: Will Terry

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (2017)

Ages: 3-7



Friendship, persistence, start of school, and Halloween.

Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):

Readers who love stories about friendship, school, and little monsters will love this clever and humorous picture book about a skeleton who is falling to pieces and needs help pulling himself together. Bonaparte is having a tough time. It’s hard for this young skeleton to just hang loose when he can’t keep hold of himself. When he plays catch, his throwing arm literally takes a flyer. Eating lunch can be a real jaw-dropping occasion. How can he start school when he has so many screws loose?

Luckily, Bonaparte hit the bone-anza when it came to his friends. Franky Stein, Black Widow, and Mummicula all have some boneheaded ideas to help pull him together. But will it be enough to boost his confidence and get him ready for the first day of school?

Opening Lines:

Bonaparte was falling to pieces, and this really shook him up . . .

especially when he rode his bike.

Or played catch.

Or visited the doctor's office.

Why I like this book:

From the title page, I knew I was in for a treat. Illustrator Will Terry created the perfect streetscape - including a coffin house, a pumpkin house, a witch's hat house and one perfect for a young Dracula.

With school approaching, three friends try to help Bonaparte stop falling apart. But their attempts immobilize, trap, or blind him. Margery Cuyler masterfully employs the rule of three, puns, repetition and rhyme in each friend's solution, and a refrain that each "had to undo all his/her hard work." When combined with Terry's cartoon like large heads, super expressive faces, and huge round eyes, the story belays any scariness. Even the carnivorous plants are humorous.

In the end, his FRIENDS discover a sensational, fetching, and rib-tickling solution for Bonaparte. (Ps it isn't any of these. You'll have to read the book to discover the solution.)

BONAPARTE FALLS APART breaks the rule that the main character has to solve his own problem. But as Margery said in our interview, "since Bonaparte is a friendship story, I thought it was okay to have his friends help him, just as friends do in real life." This is an excellent mentor text for breaking this rule and for leaving lots of room for the ilustrator. Margery and Will did an amazing job creating a friendship story using young Halloween monsters. As well as a story that emphasizes the value of persistence, despite repeated failures. I know a lot of kids that will have fun with this one.


- make paper plate masks or stick puppets of Bonaparte, Frankie, Blacky, and Mummicula, then re-enact the story or make up a new one.

Be sure to check out the interviews with author Margery Cuyler (9/5) and illustrator Will Terry (9/6).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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