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Bonaparte Falls Apart

Crown/Penguin Random House
Ill. by Will Terry

Bonaparte Falls Apart

(Hardcover ISBN 9781101937686, Paperback ISBN 9781101937723)

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?

dog with bone


An elementary-age skeleton is afraid he won't be able to maintain structural integrity at school. Bonaparte, a friendly-looking skeleton with an oversized skull and red ball cap, has a problem: he just can't keep it together—literally. Even such an apparently low-impact activity as a visit to the doctor results in a lost limb when his reflexes are tested. Worse than the inconvenience is the fact that it is sometimes very hard to find those lost bits. Bonaparte asks his pals for help. Franky Stein tries to bolt and glue him together, but he's too stiff to walk. Blacky Widow spins a web around him, but then he's hopelessly tangled. Mummicula wraps him securely, but then Bonaparte can't see. But when his friends spy a dog running by with a bone in his mouth, they realize he can be trained to retrieve Bonaparte's fallen parts. Mandible proves to be both an invaluable help and a hit with all the kids. Terry's illustrations feature frankly adorable monsters, large heads and eyes combining with very small mouths to make them look as harmless and childlike as possible (though Blacky Widow's fangs are still rather prominent). He positions his characters in vignettes on white space; when more-complicated backgrounds are introduced, they are rendered in muted colors. Both an entertaining spin on back-to-school jitters and an unusual look at service dogs. – Kirkus Reivews

The duo behind Skeleton for Dinner returns with the story of Bonaparte, a young skeleton who “was falling to pieces, and this really shook him up.” With Bonaparte’s limbs detaching at inopportune moments, his friends devise plans to help him keep it together. But Franky Stein’s glue-and-screws approach renders Bonaparte immobile, Blacky Widow’s efforts get Bonaparte tangled up in her web, and Mummicula’s snug wrap leaves Bonaparte unable to see. The eventual solution: a puglike puppy, whose bone-retrieving skills are just what the cadaver ordered. Cuyler’s readaloud-friendly narration is loaded with bone puns and makes good use of repetition and rhyme (“So Mummicula wrapped and strapped and strapped and wrapped”), and Terry creates an impish monster cast in moody scenes textured with intricate cross-hatching. With pratfalls aplenty, it’s an amusing reminder that small accommodations and the support of friends can help any kid succeed. – Publishers Weekly

Whenever he engages in even the mildest of activities, Bonaparte, a skeleton boy sporting a red baseball cap, loses an appendage. Adding to his distress about living with missing parts, the boy worries that classmates will make fun of him when he starts school. His monster friends try to help. Franky Stein glues and screws him together, but then Bonaparte can’t move. Blacky Widow spins a web around him, but that just traps him in tangles. When Mummicula wraps him up, Bonaparte can’t see. Nothing works until his pals see a dog run by with a bone in his mouth, and hit on the idea of training him to retrieve Bonaparte’s bones. The dog, named Mandible by his new owner, turns out to be a fetching champ. Now whether it’s on the ball field or in science class, Bonaparte is a huge hit at school. Wordplay such as the monster and dog names and Bonaparte’s declaration that his companions are “bone-a-fide-friends” enliven the text. Terry’s illustrations, executed in a muted palette and filled with cross-hatching, appear on white ground. His monsters are kid-friendly renderings with large, googly eyes. Several pictures contain humorous touches as well: furniture covered in a web pattern, bushes that appear as grinning fishlike creatures, a pumpkin house, and teeth flying across the cafeteria. VERDICT A read-aloud choice that will resonate with youngsters experiencing their own fears of starting school. This tale would make a welcome addition to a fun Halloween storytime as well. – School Library Journal

In this Halloween-ready tale, the most ordinary motions cause little skeleton Bonaparte to shed body parts. The impact of a baseball severs his arm at the shoulder; pedaling a bicycle takes his leg off at the knee; his skull has been known to roll under the bed. Monster friends leave “no bone unturned” in their pursuit of a solution to their buddy’s dilemma, but unfortunately Frankenstein’s monster’s lab glue is so effective Bonaparte can’t move; Spider’s tight web pulls him to the ceiling; and when Mummy tries wrapping him up, Bonaparte can’t see. The problem is solved by adopting an amiable pooch, whose delight in games of fetch make him the perfect retriever for Bonaparte’s scattered parts. Snatching up Bonaparte’s airborne lower teeth (which flew off in the lunchroom) is “a jaw-dropping sensation.” Terry’s monster cast, with oversized Peanuts-styled heads, smiley faces, and comfortingly rounded contours, sends strong visual signals that this is all more silly than scary, making the title a great choice for little kids who want the fun but not the spookiness of the holiday.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

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