A fragile book on my shelf is a first edition published in 1859: Memoirs of the Empress Catherine II, Written by Herself. Translated from the French, it's full of great details that added to the fun of writing about her. Catherine: The Great Journey, Russia, 1743 was the final book in Scholastic's Royal Diaries series and focused on her life as a young German princess and her journey to St. Petersburg.
She described meeting her future husband, Peter, when she was ten years old and he eleven. Already he was fond of alcohol, "his attendants finding it difficult to prevent him from getting intoxicated at table." Poor kid. He was a Swedish Duke and the nephew of Empress Elizabeth of Russia, yet doomed to a life of troubles.
One of Catherine's most comical memories was about her little spaniel named Ivan Ivanovich. She and her maids dressed him in costumes and brought him to dinner. "He sat at table with us, had a napkin put round him, and [ate] out of his place with great propriety." Sometimes he jumped up to inspect the dishes, helping himself to "a little pâté, a biscuit, or the like, which made the company laugh."
Catherine doesn't say if any grownups were seated with them, but I suspect there were. The kid in me laughs to picture this frivolity in the royal palace. Actually, the adult-me thinks it's pretty funny, too. I couldn't resist writing it into the story.
When my editor asked for input on the cover illustration, I said, "Oh! The dog, please show the dog!" The artist was Tim O'Brien who did the other Royal Diaries. I love how he painted Catherine holding Ivan Ivanovich in front of the snowy palace. It's one of my favorite covers.