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Cleopatra
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Gr 3-6-``It is traditionally believed that Cleopatra dazzled Caesar with her great beauty. Instead, it was the power of her intelligence and personality that drew him to her.'' In this lively, well-crafted biography, Stanley and Vennema brush the cobwebs from the popularly held portrait of Cleopatra to reveal a vital, warm, and politically adroit ruler. Lucid writing combines with carefully selected anecdotes, often attributed to the Greek historian Plutarch, to create an engaging narrative. The young queen's marriage to her brother Ptolemy XIII is placed in the context of practices of the rulers of the day. A ``Note on Ancient Sources'' and a map precede the text; an epilogue, pronunciation guide, and a brief bibliography are appended. Stanley's stunning, full-color gouache artwork is arresting in its large, well-composed images executed in flat Greek style. The palette is as rich and sumptuous as the court at Alexandria. Cover art and endpapers simulate period mosaics; the text is set against a faux-tile backdrop that reinforces the book's design and illustration. The figures of Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Mark Antony stride powerfully across scenes of Egypt and the Roman Empire. Finally, Cleopatra emerges as a savvy, astute, and complex leader who followed both her heart and mind.-Carolyn Noah, Central Mass. Regional Library System, Worcester, MA

The dazzling Egyptian queen proves a fertile subject for Stanley and Vennema, who have produced notable biographies of Queen Elizabeth, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and others. Here they make a seemingly effortless leap into ancient times, masterfully relating Cleopatra's life story through words and pictures. A succinct preface places the tale in historical context, noting that much of what is known about Cleopatra is based on legend or gossip--and that most accounts of her life were penned by her enemies. Stanley includes occasional quotes from the writings of Plutarch as she ably distills complex political machinations as well as the particulars of Cleopatra's often enigmatic private life, including her banishment from Alexandria and her fateful love for first Julius Caesar and then Mark Antony. Vennema's stunning gouache paintings spotlight the artist's trademark, period detail--attention is lavished upon simulating mosaics, for example, which serve as background for the text blocks. This peerless author/artist team makes the captivating, ultimately tragic Cleopatra seem astoundingly real. Ages 7-up. (Sept.)

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