Welcome, readers, writers and skeleton lovers, too! We have a humerus book for you today, guaranteed to tickle your funny bone. Margery Cuyler, the marvelous multi-published author and former editor at Macmillian and Holiday House, is here sharing her and Will Terry's extremely popular and beloved book, Bonaparte Falls Apart. When Bonaparte can't keep himself together, his monster friends help him pick up the pieces. But will their efforts be enough to give Bonaparte the confidence he needs to help get him ready for his first day of school? Want to know more about Margery, Bonaparte and his friends, PLUS want to hear an amazing trick and want a chance to win a wonderful treat? Read on...
Q: Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! We’re thrilled to have you Trick or Treat with us and hear all about your book Bonaparte Falls Apart. Please share a little about the inspiration behind your book.
A: Often a title floats into my mind before I write a story to go with it. “Bonaparte” was the first word that got stuck in my brain, and the second two words followed later. As time went by, I began to visualize a skeleton with loose bones. Bonaparte would be a perfect name for him. Now I needed Bonaparte to have a problem, besides loose bones, to drive the story forward. So, I came up with a first-day-of-school idea. What if Bonaparte didn’t want to go to school because he worried his classmates would make fun of him when his bones dropped off? How would Bonaparte overcome his anxiety? This is when I started to imagine what his friends might be like. Almost always, in my other books, the main character solves the problem he/she has when the book begins. In this story, I experimented with a different approach. Afterall, friends do help us when we need help, right? And kids love pets, so in the end, it’s both Bonaparte’s friends and a bone-loving dog that come to his rescue.
Q: Bonaparte Falls Apart is such a sweet and funny book, yet speaks to a child navigating issues in a school setting. I took falling apart as a metaphor for having trouble physically or even mentally – was that intentional? Or was it something that arose naturally from the story you built?
A: Actually, the title came first before the story. But once I thought of the title
And had a character in my mind, I started thinking about what it would be like if you didn’t fit in because of a physical disability, especially if you were a skeleton.
Q: Lovable Bonaparte is a flat arc character and is passive in that his friends make active attempts to solve the story problem. But yet, it feels so natural a story, in that kids aren’t self-sufficient. What informed this decision? What are your thoughts on whether a main character should have total agency over a problem?
A: I know about the editorial caveat that the main character should solve the problem. However, I think that being part of a community is good for mental health.
People should help one another. So that thought contributed to the solution to the problem introduced at the beginning.
Q: How did you adjust to writing shorter texts than you have in some of your other picture books?
A: One exercise is to do thumbnails as I write the story to see how much heavy lifting the artwork can do. It’s a really useful exercise when learning to write a lean text that still checks all the boxes, i.e. theme, character development, action, voice.
One really doesn’t have to write much description.
Q: What is one of your favorite things about Halloween?
A: Dressing up in a costume and interacting with children.
Q: BONUS QUESTION: What Halloween candy is your (and Bonaparte's) favorite?
Poor Bonaparte. Candy goes right through him. However, like him, I like chocolate nonpareils.
Thanks again for joining us, Margery! It was such a treat having you!
Q: Would you like to leave a Trick or a Treat for the readers?
Here's a Trick: One thing to remember when you’re writing a picture book:
When in doubt, leave it out! Each line in the manuscript has to deserve to be there.
And here's a special Treat: A MS critique, since my career includes that of being a children’s book editor-in-chief (at Macmillan, Holiday House, etc.)
WOW!! Thanks for such an amazing trick and treat, Margery!
Contest Details: To enter to win, Margery's amazing giveaway 1) make sure to share this post on social media and 2) leave a comment below, thanking her for stopping by!
#SeasonsOfKidLit's Trick-or-Treat Winners will be chosen on or about November 5th.
*Books will be shipped in the US only*
Note: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of ten (10) Rate Your Story Speed Passes, perfect for quick MS feedback, provided by Agent Mentee Lynne Marie & Author Heather Macht.
About Margery Cuyler:
Margery Cuyler has spent most of her life writing, editing, and publishing children’s books. She has mostly written picture books, including the classics Skeleton Hiccups, 100th Day Worries, and That’s Good! That’s Bad! Because she grew up in a haunted house, she’s comfortable writing stories about characters associated with Halloween.
During the pandemic, she wrote a number of books which will be released in the next few years, including a picture book about a zombie reunion.
She and her husband, the parents of two grown sons, just moved into a modern townhouse after living in a quirky old house in New Jersey.
For more about Margery, check out the below links:
To purchase Margery's books on Amazon or to leave a review for them, click here.
A special thanks to David Rodriguez Lorenzo for the amazing custom-signatures!