Napoleon vs. the Bunnies (Head-to-Head History)

Review

Joshua J. Mark
by
published on 12 June 2023
Napoleon vs. the Bunnies
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Title: Napoleon vs. the Bunnies
Author: J. F. Fox & Anna Kwan
Audience: Young Children
Difficulty: Easy
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Published: 2021
Pages: 40

An excellent children's book on an often-overlooked historical event: when Napoleon Bonaparte fled from the hundreds of rabbits his chief-of-staff had gathered for a celebratory hunt. This book is clever and comical with excellent illustrations and is a treat for readers of all ages.

Napoleon vs. The Bunnies, by J.F. Fox and illustrated by Anna Kwan, is an absolute delight. The book is intended for young readers and addresses a little-known event in the life of Napoleon Bonaparte: the time he was frightened by an enormous band of rabbits.

Napoleon vs. The Bunnies is the book one remembers from childhood.

In 1807, after signing the Treaties of Tilsit which ended the War of the Fourth Coalition, Napoleon decided to celebrate and ordered his chief-of-staff, Louis-Alexandre Berthier, to gather a large number of rabbits for a hunt (sources differ on whether it was hundreds or thousands of the bunnies). When the moment came to begin the hunt, the rabbits were released from their cages, and, as Fox writes:

The bunnies didn’t hippity-hop for their lives.

Quite the opposite! They made a beeline straight for Napoleon.

You see, the rabbits Louie had collected were not wild.

They had grown up on farms – farms where they were fed by people.

Instead of going to the trouble of rounding up wild rabbits to be hunted, Louis-Alexandre had simply purchased as many as he could from farmers and, for some reason, thought they would scatter like wild animals once released. Instead, since they were used to people and were accustomed to approaching them at feeding times, they hopped toward the person who seemed to be in charge: Napoleon. The rabbits focused all their attention on Napoleon - and advanced. Did Napoleon appreciate this? Not at all. What happened next can only be considered a serious defeat for the great general, but this reviewer cannot give away the ending - everyone is encouraged to buy the book to discover the conclusion for themselves.

Considering how Napoleon Bonaparte’s life is routinely treated with great seriousness, the “war with the bunnies” episode – a documented historical event – provides a different view of the general and Emperor of France, highlighting his humanity through his reaction to what must have been an extremely embarrassing event. Napoleon as the brilliant strategist, lawgiver, reformer, general, and even tyrant is a theme dealt with through thousands of books and articles; but a book on Napoleon’s most embarrassing moment is a rare treat. A reader does not need to know anything about the man to enjoy this book, however, as the narrative makes clear who Napoleon was and why he is so famous. Napoleon vs. The Bunnies is the book one remembers from childhood that first engages one with history through a fascinating and well-told story with lively illustrations.

Fox’s writing style is clever and engaging – many lines are laugh-out-loud hilarious – and the story is further developed by Kwan’s excellent illustrations, which are all historically accurate – even, one may imagine, regarding the bunnies. The story as presented is also historically accurate, and the book includes a section at the back on aspects of Napoleon’s life, a glossary of vocabulary words used, and a bibliography of sources consulted.

Published by Kids Can Press, the book is part of the Head-to-Head-History series which includes another excellent title by Fox and Kwan, The Van Buren Sisters vs. The Pants Police (2023), dealing with the famous cross-country motorcycle ride from New York to California of Augusta and Adeline Van Buren in 1916. This book, and Napoleon vs. The Bunnies, are available on Amazon for $14.53 and $13.99, respectively, and have a reading age suggestion of 5-8 years old. Anyone of any age will enjoy these books, however, as they are easily among the most delightful history lessons a person will ever experience.

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$19.99
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About the Reviewer

Joshua J. Mark
Joshua J. Mark is World History Encyclopedia's co-founder and Content Director. He was previously a professor at Marist College (NY) where he taught history, philosophy, literature, and writing. He has traveled extensively and lived in Greece and Germany.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Mark, J. J. (2023, June 12). Napoleon vs. the Bunnies (Head-to-Head History). World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/review/363/napoleon-vs-the-bunnies-head-to-head-history/

Chicago Style

Mark, Joshua J.. "Napoleon vs. the Bunnies (Head-to-Head History)." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified June 12, 2023. https://www.worldhistory.org/review/363/napoleon-vs-the-bunnies-head-to-head-history/.

MLA Style

Mark, Joshua J.. "Napoleon vs. the Bunnies (Head-to-Head History)." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 12 Jun 2023. Web. 13 Apr 2024.

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