Monday, September 27, 2010

Yesterday’s Reality Show

What happens to you today is history tomorrow. Whether anybody else cares or wants to write a book about your life may depend on what else is happening. Cataclysmic events make history. What helps us remember history more than 50, 300 or 2000 years ago is a real or imagined person we can identify with. Ah, yes, we know what it is like to...The more skillful the author, the more likely we are to get blisters on our feet walking in the shoes of that character.

CLEOPATRA RULES! The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen, by Vicky Alvear Shecter. Boyds Mills Press, 2010

How do you make history interesting to teens? Make it relevant.

Get out of your head which may want to impress with vast knowledge gathered over years of study, and get into their heads. Author Vicky Shecter has done just that. She’s found a way to preserve the flow of history in words that relate to the readers, lacing her recital of fascinating facts with humor a teen will find difficult to resist. Latin can’t be considered a dead language when this author infuses its world with such spirit. One can almost hear Mark Antony walking into the palace he shares with Cleopatra and calling out, “Honey, I’m home. ‘Zup?”

Readers who enjoy puzzles and codes will delight in the jokes in hieroglyphics, just waiting to be de-mystified. Yes, that’s right. Jokes.

Let’s be serious for a minute. What did the rich and famous of their day give each other as gifts? To agree to marriage, Cleopatra asked for certain Roman ruled territories. The one thing Mark Antony held back on was Judea, ruled by King Herod. Yes,“that" King Herod. For a wedding present, Mark Antony gave Cleopatra books (undoubtedly scrolls) instead of jewels. The presents Cleopatra gave her children: a temple, a country, and probably some jewels here and there. And we think we have a difficult time figuring out what to give someone who has everything.

As the clever author puts it, Cleo was Queen of the Nile, not queen of denial. This lady was a shrewd politician. Her goal was to make Egypt bigger and stronger. The many power struggles detailed are familiar and reminiscent of present day. To me, the biggest difference is that our senators wear suits, not togas.

Cleopatra is considered the last pharaoh of Egypt. Certainly, she was a woman of secrecy. Neither her writings nor her tomb have been found.

The author has thoughtfully included a time line, glossary, bibliography, and picture sources at the end of the book when the reader is hooked. It’s OK to impress with all those years of study when the reader has been wowed and is ready to be awed. Shecter does all these things, with a little help from Cleopatra. Somebody had to live this amazing life so we could read about it.

A docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University in Atlanta, the author also applied her love of scholarship mixed with a flair for the comedic to her first book, Alexander the Great Rocks the World.

Vicky Shecter makes ancient history addictive.


  1. You know a book's going to be good when it has hieroglyphics riddles!

  2. Love the review. Joan you know how to make my 'must read list' grow and grow!

  3. I can't wait to get my boys reading this book. They loved Alexander Rocks the World.


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