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La Comtesse Thérèse's Adventure

Charlotte Rolfe answers Back-to-Back FAQs

Do both books have the same story?
No. The stories are different. Each pair of books will have common elements, such as characters and setting, but the stories are completely different so that each reader brings different information to the conversation.

Can the child read the adult book?
The book written for the adult has story lines for mature readers. The adult will have to assess the maturity of the child reader to decide if the book is appropriate for the child. The adult may also decide not to share some of the events in the story, depending on the maturity level of the child.

Does the adult have to read the child’s book to understand the story?
No. In fact, the idea is that children will have completely different information to add to the discussion of the books, allowing them to feel that they bring something special of their own to the discussion. To help the readers begin to talk about the stories, discussion points have been placed in the back of the child’s book.

What if I just want to read one of the books?
This is fine, because each book is a complete work of fiction that can stand on its own.

Why did you decide to create Back-to-Back Books?
People love to talk about books! Think of all of the book groups that have been active for many years. Back-to-Back Books allow an adult and a child to talk about books in a new way – helping to develop the art of communication and enhancing the relationships between generations. Why wait until a child is grown to share the love of a good story?

La ComtesseFurther reading: Charlotte Rolfe’s Bibliography for La Comtesse and Thérèse’s Adventure

Abbot, John S. C. The History of Napoleon Bonaparte, Volume II. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1855. More on this book.

Banfield, Susan. The Rights of Man, The Reign of Terror: The Story of the French Revolution. New York: J. B. Lippincott,1989.

Chamberlain, Samuel. Domestic Architecture in Rural France, Taylor Trade Publishing, 1981.

Cobb, Richard, and Colin Jones. Voices of the French Revolution, Salem House Publishers, Topsfield, MA. 1988.

canalCorbin, Alain. Village Bells: Sound and Meaning in the Nineteenth-century French Countryside. New York: Columbia University Press,1998.

de Bourrienne, Louis Antoine Fauvelet, The Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, Vol. 2 of 2. Ed. R. W. Phipps, 1891. Forgotten Books,, 2008. More on this book.

Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.

Gorsline, Douglas. What People Wore. New York: Bonanza Books,1952.

McLynn, Frank. Napoleon: A Biography. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2002.

Rude, George. The French Revolution. New York: Grove Press, 1988.

Saint-Hilaire, Emile Marco. Popular History of Napoleon. Marescq and Co., 1857. (Online edition, Translated by Greg Gorsuch) More on this book.

Schom, Alan. Napoleon Bonaparte. New York: HarperCollins,1997.

Turner, Anthony, and Christopher Brown. Burgundy. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd., 1977.

Thérèse's AdventureActivities: Have fun learning about Thérèse’s world

Where did Thérèse have her adventure?
Find it: visit Google Maps and type in the search box: Dijon, France; Beaune, France

Where had Napoleon’s army been fighting?
Find it: visit Google Maps and type in the search box: Italy.  

Where did Thérèse live?
There is no town of St Vivant, but there once used to be a church with that name.
Find it: visit Google Maps and type in the search box: Abbaye de Saint-Vivant, Burgundy, France.
Make it: Try drawing your own map of France. Put in the places you have found.

Who was Géneral Napoleon? 
Find it: Check our Glossary to find out more about Napoleon. You can also read about him online at this European history website.

What did a château look like?
Find it: Try this link to see pictures of French châteaux. You can also find pictures of châteaux at the library.
Make it: Imagine what the Château St. Vivant might have looked like, and try drawing a picture of it, or building it with cardboard, Legos® or clay.

What are some of the delicious French cakes?
Find them: You can find lots of pictures and information about the cakes Thérèse tries during her adventure. Visit and type in the search box: petit four; Madeleines.
To find a video of Grandmother (Memée) Denise making French gingerbread (pain d’épice),
click here.
Make it: Thérèse thought lemonade was delicious. You can make lemonade from real lemons. Visit: and follow the simple recipe.

Sister's habitWhat was the clothing like in Thérèse’s world?
Find it: Visit the New York Public Library’s digital gallery and type in the search box: clothing, France, 1799. To find a dress pattern for 1799, visit and type in the search box: dress pattern, 1799.
Make it: Look at the dress pattern and pictures online. Then imagine how Thérèse, Alix, and Aunt Marguerite dressed for the parade and draw pictures of them.

PapillonWhat was Mme. Bessière’s dog, Paget, like?
Paget was a Papillon, a small lap dog with large “butterfly” ears. The French word “papillon”  means, “butterfly.”  For the book cover for Thérèse’s Adventure, we photographed a black and white Papillon named Dolce, who quickly made friends with our model for Thérèse.
Find it: You can find out more about Papillon dogs at the
Papillon Club of America website.

What was the French Revolution about? 
Like the American Revolution, the French Revolution was about overthrowing one government and starting a new one. However, it was very different from the American Revolution.
Find it: Visit this history site to find out more about the French Revolution.
Think about it: How was the French Revolution different from the American Revolution?

owlsWhy are owls special in Thérèse’s Adventure?
Owls are interesting birds, and they play a mysterious part in Thérèse’s story.
Think about it: Why do you think the owls are special?
Find it: Find out more about owls by visiting

Glossary for Thérèse’s Adventure

Readers! Suggest words or phrases from the books to add to our glossary by emailing our editor.

Why do the French place accent marks over some letters?
Accent marks suggest a different way to pronounce the letter. For example, “é” asks the speaker to pronounce the accented letter “e” similarly to the English long “a” as in “bake.”

There are five different accent marks used in French. They are:
acute accent (accent aigu): é only
grave accent (accent grave): è, à, ù
circumflex (accent circonflexe): â, ê, î, ô, û
diaeresis (tréma): ë, ï, ü, ÿ
cedilla (cédille): ç only
For help in pronouncing accented French letters, visit this site.

Words and phrases:
Altar: a place or structure where religious rites are performed.
Ballroom: a large room used to hold formal dances.
Barge: a flat boat designed to carry cargo.
Basin: a bowl-shaped container for water.
Beguine: a member of a lay sisterhood, established in France in the 12th century.
Ça Ira: a French phrase meaning “this will go.” Also the title of a French patriotic song. Listen to the song on youtube.
canalCanal: a man-made waterway for navigation, irrigation, or transportation.
Carriage: a horse-drawn vehicle in which to travel.
Cassoulet: a peasant dish from France, made of white beans slow-cooked with sausages, pork, goose, and duck, served with thick bread.
Chapel: a small place of worship, or miniature church, often attached to a great house or manor and used for family worship.
Charrolais cattle: a breed of white cattle originating in the Bourgogne (Burgundy) region of France.
Château: a large French manor house. Once occupied only by members of the
aristocracy, and later built and occupied by the wealthy.
Cockade: a small decoration of feathers or ribbons, worn on a hat.
Compounds: compounds in medicine are mixtures of ingredients, chemicals or herbs.
Comte and Comtesse: French artistocrats. The English equivalent is Count and Countess.
Cornette: a piece of female headwear, popular in the 1400s to the 1600s, and used often by nursing sisters, featuring a starched horn- or wing-like cloth worn atop a tight hood called a wimple.
Courtyard: the area in front of a large manor house, château, or public building, usually used for the arrival and departure of carriages.
Herb: a plant used for its aromatic, flavorful, or healing properties.
Hutch: a cage in which rabbits are kept.
Lantern: a portable metal box in which to carry a candle so that the candle is not blown out by wind.
Madame: French for “Mrs.” or “madam.”
Madeleine: a small vanilla cake made in the shape of a seashell.
Mademoiselle: French for “miss,” applied to a young lady.
Monsieur: French for “mister” or “sir.”
Moss: carpet-like plants that grow close together in shady areas, often in forests.
Napoleon: (1769-1821). One of the greatest military leaders in history, Napoleon Bonaparte rose to the rank of General in the French army at the age of 24, and, in the final years of the French Revolution, brought order back to France. He became Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, and served in that office from 1804 to 1815. Best known for his military and political achievements, he reformed French law into the Napoleonic Code and supported the development of art and science throughout Europe. Napoleon tried to bring Europe together under a single government with himself at its head, but several European states united against him, defeated his army in 1814, and drove him into exile. He escaped, but was defeated again at the Battle of Waterloo by the British in 1815. He spent the last years of his life imprisoned by the British on the island of St. Helena, where he died in 1821.
Palace of the States (Ducal Palace), Dijon: The palace of the Duke of Burgundy in Dijon was built in the 1600s. After the French Revolution, it became known as the Palace of the States. Today, the palace is Dijon’s City Hall and is home to its Fine Arts Museum.
Pelisse: a long overdress worn as a coat, sometimes lined with wool or fur.
Place de la Révolution, Dijon: the large courtyard and parade ground in front of the Palace of the States (now Dijon’s City Hall).
Petit Four: a small cake, usually about one inch wide, and often “glacé” (iced or frosted); frequently served with tea.
Pharmacy: a shop where medicines and drugs are sold. In the early 1800s, herbal compounds and tisane packets were sold there.
Plume: a large feather, usually pinned up in the hair or worn in a hat.
Rosette: a round pin made of colored ribbon that held a plume in place.
Salon: a large room for gatherings; a “petit salon” is a smaller room, more like a living room or family room today.
Seamstress: a woman who sews clothing and household items for her living.
Square: a large area in the center of a village, town, or city, usually at the intersection of main streets. Squares were used for important announcements, markets, gatherings, and assemblies.
Tisane: an herbal mixture steeped in hot water, like today’s herbal tea.
Urn: a vase or container, usually on a base, and often covered.
Valise: a soft bag with a handle similar to a carpetbag or today’s suitcase, in which to carry clothing.
Vendor: a seller who walks through the streets selling goods like vegetables, brooms, firewood, and other items.
Wardrobe: Closets were not built into houses much before the 20th century. Wardrobes were large wooden cabinets with shelves, used to hold clothing and linens.


The Hôtel Dieu, Beaune, France
The images are captioned with excerpts from
Thérèse's Adventure.

"But most incredible of all were the brilliant tiles covering the roof – tiles of red, green, yellow and a black that almost looked brown – arranged in intricate patterns of overlapping diamond shapes. The colors blazed in the afternoon sunlight. It was like nothing Thérèse had ever seen before."

Courtyard well"Leaving that building, they walked across the courtyard to the well. It had a wrought iron frame attached to the edge of its stone walls. The frame held the chain and wheel that helped to lower the bucket to get water."

Garden Gate "At the end of the building, she opened a large wrought iron gate to take them into the garden. It was a much larger kitchen garden than at Thérèse’s home."

"Marthe gave Thérèse a clean white apron, and a white kitchen bonnet for her hair; then the work began. A short stool was brought over to one of the counters, and Thérèse started washing vegetables and looking for bugs hiding in the leaves. She had no idea how much food was needed to feed all of the patients, all of the sisters, and the others who worked there, like the watchmen and the gardeners. Thérèse worked all morning. When she was finished with the vegetables, she helped to put away the pots and dishes as they were washed, and swept the floor."

Maitre Bertrand"... she pointed at a little metal man attached to the mechanism that was turning the meat in the fireplace. He had a tall floppy hat, a bright red coat, and white pantaloons. He stood on one metal rod, and his hands were attached to another making it look as if this little man was turning the large piece of beef in the fireplace."

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Great Hall"The vast hospital was filled with sick people. Along both sides, the walls were lined with carved wooden beds hung with red velvet drapes. The beds were wide and in some beds there were two patients. Down the center of the room, there were cots and mattresses on the floor, all filled with sick and wounded men. There were more nurses dressed in blue and white moving among the patients, but it was obvious that there was a great need here."

Small ward
"'“This is where wealthy or noble patients stay.' They walked into a room with only a few beds, each with a red velvet curtain for privacy.There were two nurses working in there, one putting more wood on the large fireplace at one end of the hall. Unlike the busy Great Hall, which was filled to overflowing with patients, there were only three people here, and it was very quiet and peaceful."

"This is our pharmacy, and we have a wonderful doctor who works with Sister Sandrine to prepare medicine for the patients. The Hôtel Dieu pharmacy is famous and we make sure to keep it neat and well stocked.”

"There was a stone altar in the middle of the chapel. Thérèse noticed that many of the tiles in front of the altar were broken, and the little alcoves where there should have been statues were empty. Sister Merle said that there had once been a magnificent window with colored glass above the altar, but all that was left now were broken bits of glass. Thérèse wondered how it looked when it was new."

Painting"Most amazing of all, leaning against the wall was an enormous painting! It was nearly twice as tall as Thérèse, and very long. Looking more closely Thérèse realized that the painting was actually in panels – she counted nine in all. But all of the panels seemed to be part of the same picture. Some of the small panels had beautiful angels...."

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Scenes from the town of Beaune

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