Bonaparte  

Bonaparte

illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
published by DK, Sept. 2000
ISBN 078942617X
Ages 4-8, 32 pages

Awards
Smithsonian Notable Book for Children, 2000
Parents' Choice Silver Honor Award, 2000
Minnesota Book Award Finalist, 2001

 
What's a hound who misses his boy to do? Bonaparte is devastated. His boy, Jean Claude, has been sent away to La School d'Excellence. And the first rule is no dogs allowed. But Bonaparte is determined to see his beloved Jean Claude again. Perhaps they'll believe he's a student or a drummer in the school band or a lunch lady. With magnificent drawings, full of details to discover with each new reading, Bonaparte is a cold-nosed, warm-hearted tale.
 
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Marsha writes:

I wrote Bonaparte for at least two reasons. First, I was (and still am) an only child. Second, my earliest peer was a dog. Please follow the syllogism: Brothers are boys. Buff, a dog, was my brother. Therefore, Buff was a boy. Logic aside, dogs and boys do indeed have much in common: they're messy, drool a lot, and smell bad sometimes; they also perform terrific stunts, make fascinating sound effects, and are great chums all around.

Of course, dogs, like boys, can talk when they must and are probably capable of many mysteries in their secret lives. When my father, my kids, and I picked up my second brother, Hank (who remarkably resembled my older brother, Buff), my dad already had his eyes on the prize—Best in Show. Hank came with papers and was pedigreed, sired by a champion. But I didn't care about his lineage. I just wanted him to stop shivering long enough to learn to go on the paper and settle in with his new pack.

Too young to compete, Hank slept through most of his first dog show—1,900 Canadian and American dogs on parade at the Lake Minnetonka Kennel Club All-Breed Dog Show. I was deeply satisfied. I didn't want Hank to go to the dogs, especially those dogs. He was one of us, not them. Hank was real.

Marsha and HankI wrote Bonaparte first for Hank. In the earliest drafts, Bonaparte, a dog corrupt with braggadocio, lured Jean Claude's companionship with florid displays of talent—in ballet, in paleontology, in cooking French delicacies—like the dogs at the show. But Hank didn't get it.

I couldn't either. The story never worked until I finally wrote it for myself. What mattered to me was Bonaparte's sincerity, his dogged determination to be with his boy.

 
         
At the end of the book when Bonaparte sheds his last disguise, saying to the Regents, "Perhaps you need a good dog," he has finally found himself. He is a dog—no more, no less. At his best as himself, he naturally finds his boy.

I write my best when I write to find myself, my true fears and dreams. In this story, I rediscovered my need for connection, to be part of the pack. In Bonaparte, I found a heart familiar with my own. C'est bon!
 

Bonaparte