Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Betsy and the Emperor

Betsy and the Emperor

Staton Rabin
Historical Fiction
For ages 10 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2004   ISBN: 978-0689858802

When Betsy comes home to the island of Elba she is delighted to finally be free of the horrid boarding school where she spent many quite unpleasant months. Her parents hope that the school has done its duty and turned their daughter into a young lady. Alas, Betsy still has a will of her own, and she is still very unladylike in her behavior, her thoughts, and her actions.

Before she even has time to fully settle in, Betsy finds herself in the middle of a very bizarre situation. The powers that be have decided that Betsy’s family are to take in a most controversial house guest and it is not long before Betsy, despite herself, is becoming friends with that most notorious of despots, Napoleon Bonaparte. The famous general and the fourteen year old girl find that they have much in common and Betsy cannot help liking the odd little man who loves children and who has a very unpredictable temper. She soon finds herself wishing that she could help Napoleon and she deplores the way in which he is being treated by his English captors. If only there was something she could do to help.

With great skill and a wonderful understanding of the humor that lies in so much of what we do, the author of this excellent piece of historical fiction has created a bittersweet novel full of vibrant and loveable characters. Along with Betsy we find ourselves liking Napoleon Bonaparte and wishing that there was some way to free him from his prison. The reader will find an excellent section at the back of the book which clarifies how much of Betsy’s story is true and which describes Bonaparte’s real imprisonment on the island of St. Helena.