Wednesday, September 26, 2007


We have been fumbling around in Ancient Rome even though we are supposed to be studying the Middle Ages. Our study was supposed to begin with the fall of Rome, but last year we never finished Ancient Rome, so we decided to do a quick journey through Rome. Getting additional resources from the library can be fraught with delays and poor choices if you have to order your books blind and online from regional members, rather than scanning the shelves. I usually compensate by choosing two or three books on whatever subject we are studying, hoping one or the other will work.

I did this with Cleopatra with much success. I got Diane Stanley's Cleopatra and The Women of Achievement Cleopatra. The Women of Achievement Cleopatra is a longer chapter book with much good information including a chronology, book and web resources, and images, but we chose the Stanley picture book for our study because it was more interesting and less textbookish while still being filled with valid information.

Diane Stanley, with Peter Vennema illustrating, created a scholarly, living, picture book. I know that sounds strange and somewhat of a contradiction, but that is the only way I can explain it. The story is great. I intended to break it into smaller pieces, but the children kept saying, "More, More, More!!!" so we read the whole book in one night. While creating an interesting story Stanley cautions us about the scarcity and lack of reliability of ancient resources for Cleopatra (everything preserved is written by her enemies). Yet, she seems to create a fair picture and even quotes Plutarch. The illustrations are bright, detailed, and many have mosaics like the cover. There are also maps, a pronunciation guide, and a bibliography. Diane Stanley's Cleopatra was a wonderful find for our family.

Stanley and Vennema have also collaborated on Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations. I've put them on my list.


Anonymous said...

I've bought the Stanley book on Joan of Arc (which I reviewed on my blog; use the history category). Same thing. Good pictures. Good story. Good information for real historians (even short, novice historians).

I think it might be fair to say that if there is a Diane Stanley book on the topic you are studying, it's the best one to order :-)

marye~ said...

This sounds like a wonderful book, I will have to check it out!