Betsy and the Emperor
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Fourteen-year-old English girl Betsy Balcombe and her family have a most unusual house guest: Napoleon Bonaparte, former emperor of France and the most feared man on earth. Once lord and master to eighty-two million souls, now in 1815, Napoleon is a captive of the British people. Stripped of his empire and robbed of his young family and freedom, he is confined to the forbidding, rat-infested island of St. Helena, where a cruel jailer and more than two thousand British troops guard his every move.
The one bright star in Napoleon's black sky is Betsy, a blazingly rebellious teenager whose family is reluctantly housing the notorious prisoner. Betsy is the only foreigner Napoleon's ever met who is not impressed by him and doesn't tremble at the sight of him -- and Napoleon is more than intrigued.
After fits and starts, a most remarkable friendship develops between Betsy and the emperor -- a friendship that transcends age and politics. As Betsy develops from a gangly, tomboyish girl to a blossoming young woman, this unexpected and wonderful alliance survives inevitable gossip and growing pains, giving Betsy the courage to pursue her dreams -- and Napoleon the courage to face his dark future. It also inspires Betsy to hatch a daring and dangerous plan on Napoleon's behalf, a scheme that could threaten both of their lives and shake entire empires to their foundations.
Based on true events, Staton Rabin's story blends humor, adventure, and poignant drama, vividly revealing new insights into the heart and mind of one of the most towering, fascinating historical figures of our time -- and tells a tale of hope and bravery that will inspire readers to their own heights of courage.
Read an Excerpt
I opened my bedroom window and inhaled -- deeply, joyfully. That familiar, intoxicating odor: night on St. Helena. The sickly-sweet smell of guava and roses hung in the air like ether, just as I'd remembered it. Who would have thought I'd be so glad to return to the place my father and his navy comrades called "Hell in the South Atlantic"?
It was the autumn of 1815. I had been home again at the Briars just three days, from Hawthorne Boarding School in London. I'd shocked my parents by not misbehaving once since my return to St. Helena. Perhaps they believed the knuckle-rapping, head-thumping headmistress of Hawthorne had... see more
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Reading Group Guide
Betsy and the Emperor
By Staton Rabin
About the Book
"An engaging novel..." -New York Times Book Review
Based on true events, Betsy and the Emperor tells the story of fourteen-year-old Betsy Balcombe and her friendship with Napoleon Bonaparte. Once the emperor of France, now in 1815, Napoleon is a captive of the British people. During his confinement on St. Helena, a remote island in the South Atlantic, Napoleon is made to live with the Balcombe family. Young Betsy is the only foreigner he has ever met who is not afraid of him, and Napoleon is intrigued. Rabin's story reveals new insights into the heart and mind of one of the most towering, fascinating historical figures of our time -- and tells a tale of hope and bravery that will inspire readers to their own heights of courage.
About the Author
Staton Rabin has a B.F.A. in film from New York University. In addition to writing for children, she is a screenwriter; a popular speaker about the art, craft, and business of writing for film; and a veteran story analyst for Scr(i)pt magazine, screenwriters, and producers. Staton Rabin lives in Irvington, New York.
Note: Betsy and the Emperor can be used by history teachers as a tool for teaching French and Napoleonic history. In addition, it may be used by English teachers to encourage reading followed by thoughtful reflection as well as see more