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The Picture Book Buzz

Bonaparte Plays Ball - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

First, I'd like to announce

that the winner


Whoo-ku Haiku

by Maria Gianferrari.


David McMullin!

Now on to this week's #PPBF selection.

I absolutely fell in love with the creative geniuses of Margery Cuyler and Will Terry in Bonaparte Falls Apart. Where the most adorable little skeleton is afraid of attending school because of his propensity to lose his bones. It contained lots of word play, endearing illustrations, and an unusual resolution - Bonaparte's friends solved his problem. Which, as Margery notes, is reflective of life where we do often rely on friends for help and support.

I was so excited when I saw the announcement for the sequel Bonaparte Plays Ball. If you haven't seen the cover yet, take a moment and glance below. How can you not be intrigued by a skeleton playing baseball and the little aliens over his shoulder? That's such a great cover.

This book exceeded all my expectations. If you like baseball, Halloween characters playing sports, aliens, or word play you will love this book!

Bonaparte Plays Ball

Author: Margery Cuyler

Illustrator: Will Terry

Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers (2020)

Ages: 3-7



Baseball, self-confidence, persistence, sportsmanship, monsters, and aliens.

Synopsis (from the publisher):

Join a skeleton named Bonaparte and his teammates as they compete in the Weird Series–a monster version of the World Series–in this picture book perfect for fans of baseball and silly monsters alike! It’s the Weird Series and Bonaparte’s team, the Little Monsters, are gearing up to play against the Mighty Aliens for the championship title. The competition is fierce and Bonaparte, of course, is a jumble of bones. What if he loses his backbone while at bat? What if the Mighty Aliens make fun of him? With bullies on the other team and the bases loaded, will Bonaparte be able to hold himself together and hit a home run without losing his head? Fans of Bonaparte Falls Apart will delight in seeing this cast of monstrous friends band together to overcome their nerves and remain good sports as they play the game of their lives!

Opening Lines:

It was the Weird Series.

Bonaparte's team, the Little Monsters,

was playing the Mighty Aliens on Saturday.

Bonaparte was a jittery jumble of bones.

What I like about this book:

Got your attention? Now, take a look at the opening spread:

Text © Margery Cuyler, 2020. Image © Wil Terry, 2020

First off, "the Weird Series," genius! Will Terry's illustration of the Mighty Alien team, more genius! And then the lyricism of "jittery jumble of bones," and his fear of losing "his backbone at bat," is delightful. Almost everyone's experienced teasing (whether "kind" or not) and can sympathize, if not empathize, with Bonaparte. Readers immediately identify with him and his fear of failure and letting his friends down. Such a well-done opening! And the fun is only beginning; wait until you see the vampire umpire!

This book is loaded with baseball puns, word play, and examples of persistence, teamwork and sportsmanship. The plot follows a traditional baseball game, albeit with some more unusual players. The Monster team has everyone from the previous book - Bonaparte (w/ his bone fetching service dog, Mandible), Mummicula, Franky Stein, Ghostie, Pumpkinhead, Zombie, Batula, Wolfie, Witchie, & Blacky Widow. And the Aliens' roster includes - Flamethrower, Eggcracker, Mega Meteor. Sky Boomer, Saturnicus, Snatcher, Moonbob, & Greased Lightning. I love these names and it is clear that Will had a lot of fun illustrating the characters.

The week before the series, "Coach Roach," (definitely the ONLY cockroach I could honestly call adorable), "touched base" with the team. He reminded them that to win they had to practice hard all week.

Text © Margery Cuyler, 2020. Image © Wil Terry, 2020

The day of the Weird Series, the Aliens were up first and they scored three points, after "Galactic Slimer slugged a moon shot into outer space." Next up, the Monsters. Mummicula tripped on his bandages and Frankie Stein "screwed up and smacked the ball to first base" (*snicker*) So, with two outs and two on base, it was up to Bonaparte. His fears were realized when he struck out amid teasing from the Aliens. By the 5th inning, the Monsters were down 5-0.

Trying to fire up the team, Coach Roach tells them, "“Never give up! . . . It ain’t over till it’s over!" Look at this image! See what I mean about this being an "adorable roach." Honestly, how could you not love that face? I'm impressed that Will can even make a black widow adorable and I really don't like spiders. His somewhat muted, colorful illustrations are lively and captivating.

Text © Margery Cuyler, 2020. Image © Wil Terry, 2020

In the sixth inning, when the Monsters finally loaded the bases, the Aliens resorted to “Re-bolting! . . . Skullduggery" (cheating) by waving garlic at Batula. Fortunately, a "blood-orange juice" could revive him and Batula's "grand slam" scored four points for the Monsters. Ultimately, at the bottom of the ninth inning, with the score tied, it all comes down to Bonaparte.

This time, no one else can help him. "Quivering and shaking," he "clickety-clacked to the plate," amid an impressive array of jeering Aliens, and . . .

Well now, I guess you're going to have to read it yourself.

Hopefully, I've given you a tantalizing taste of Margery Cuyler's skillful puns and word play about baseball, space, monsters, and each character's personality or name. And her equally masterful use of alliteration and internal rhyme. All of which makes this book an absolute joy to read. Overall, this is a fun book for baseball fans, space and monster fans, readers who enjoy word play and puns, and anyone looking for a book encouraging good sportsmanship, self-confidence, and persistence.


- make your own baseball game w/ felt, ping-pong ball & cups (or figures) -

- write or draw a funny story about something or someone unusual playing baseball or any other sport. What would be the hardest part of the game for them? How could they overcome that problem?

- read other books on baseball. Such as: nonfiction - Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki, Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey; or fiction - H is for Home Run by Brad Herzog, Dino-Baseball by Lisa Wheeler, or My Baseball Book by Gail Gibbons.

If you missed the interview of Margery Cuyler and Will Terry on Monday, find it (here).

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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