From School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up–Julius Caesar was “a player,” Marc Antony a “good ol' boy.” Caesar Augustus, once a “snot-nosed, knobby-kneed, pimply-faced peon,” presents himself as a “stud” after defeating Antony at Actium. Cleopatra started life as a “bookish nerd.” Readers are either going to love or hate the popped-up tone of this well-documented history of “the original teen queen.” Shecter packs it full of irreverent metaphors (“Egyptians believed that a soul without a body was like a hotdog without a bun”) and up-to-date recontextualizations (referring to the Donations of Alexandria: “Imagine the outrage if the vice president of the United States suddenly gave away parts of Alaska”). Short chapters with banner headlines every few paragraphs organize Cleopatra's action-packed life into easily processed pieces, and the slangy style may mitigate the effect of the unfamiliar proper nouns. Medium-size photographs of objects and images such as movie posters, book illustrations, and paintings proliferate, one per page. A modicum of pronunciation assistance is offered, but there is an unfortunate shortage of maps. However, sidebars with sometimes-silly factoids (games, cosmetics) help round out this view of Cleopatra's life. Respectably lengthy endnotes refer to an even-more-respectable biography–readers are pointed to Suetonius, Tacitus, and Herodotus as well as excellent modern works on the subject. Most importantly, Shecter addresses and questions preconceptions about Cleopatra that have proliferated throughout Western culture since Plutarch. Whatever one thinks of the style, the scholarship is sound: in this case, a spoonful of Pop-Rocks may help the Ptolemies go down.Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson, MD
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This attractive book presents Cleopatra’s story through an unusual text, many informative sidebars, and excellent color illustrations: maps, photos of ancient artifacts, and artworks from many historical periods. Calling attention to the writing as much as its story, the text includes puns, informal language, and contemporary metaphors: Cleopatra’s younger sister and brother “trash-talked her worse than feuding starlets at a Hollywood club.” Even young readers initially drawn to this approach may tire of the chatty tone or puzzle over more dated figures of speech, such as “Cleopatra’s cleverness had even Antony’s own soldiers laughing into their helmets.” Still, Shecter’s solid research is evident in her account of events as well as the back matter, which includes informative notes, a time line, a glossary, bibliographies of primary and secondary sources, and source notes for the illustrations. The dramatic book jacket will draw many readers. Grades 4-7. --Carolyn Phelan
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