CLEOPATRA

Beneath a heavy cover studded with “rubies” and other “gems,” the diary of one of Cleopatra’s handmaids offers a look at Ptolemaic Egypt’s last years. Interspersed with comments about cats, the court and life in Alexandria, ten-year-old Nefret’s chatty record of Cleopatra’s successive intrigues with her husband/brother Ptolemy, Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony ends partway through. Then Geras switches to third person to trace Cleo’s later life and to cover a series of related topics, from Egyptian people and gods to the Roman army. Robertson’s paintings range from busy Alexandria street scenes to a view of Caesar’s bloody corpse, and are populated with natural-looking, sometimes humorous figures, including a glimpse of Nefret “walking like an Egyptian.” Capped by photos of the pyramids and Egyptian artifacts, this mix of fact and fancy isn’t exactly seamless, but it does introduce one of history’s heroines and brings her era to life in a reasonably accurate way. (glossary, index) (Historical fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-753-46025-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Kingfisher

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2007

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Long before Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by watching,” Fabre proved it so.

SMALL WONDERS

JEAN-HENRI FABRE AND HIS WORLD OF INSECTS

The rewards of simply taking time to bend down for a closer look are celebrated in this tribute to the great French entomologist.

Seeing as a lad that “every patch of dirt and tangle of weeds buzzed with insects: dazzling beetles, ferocious wasps, sweet-singing crickets, and more,” young Fabre went on to devote a long life to watching common insects rather than just collecting dead specimens as most of his contemporary colleagues did. The distinctive, enduring affection with which he regarded his diminutive subjects regardless of their often savage behavior comes through clearly here, both in Smith’s warm narrative and Ferri’s equally engaging views of the naturalist. He delightedly discovers a shimmering hoplia beetle beneath a leaf, smiles from his sickbed as a handful of hibernating bees revives after his son carries them indoors, and is wonderstruck by an account of how Cerceris wasps paralyze beetles as live food for offspring. (The illustrator has a little fun with viewers by adding a looming insectile shadow as well as close-up views of hovering wasps in this last scene.) Fabre’s many original discoveries and insights won him renown, and though he is largely unknown to nonspecialists today, his nose-to-nose approach to the natural world is well worth commemorating to modern readers.

Long before Yogi Berra said, “You can observe a lot by watching,” Fabre proved it so. (historical note, timeline, author’s note, annotated source list) (Picture book/biography. 9-11)

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4778-2632-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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LUCY MAUD MONTGOMERY

A WRITER’S LIFE

Readers who have just discovered Anne Shirley of Green Gables and are wondering where she came from will find at least the beginnings of an answer in this fresh, frank picture-book biography. Montgomery comes across as a generous spirit, with both an independent streak and a strong sense of duty. MacLeod sketches both her public and private lives, pointing out real people, places, or incidents that appeared later in her books. She quotes income figures ($12,000 in 1914: as much as the Canadian Prime Minister) and describes, among other details, her youthful infatuation for one man, her secret engagement to another, and, years later, her long struggle to keep her husband's mental illness a secret. On every spread, montages of contemporary photos, portraits, book covers, quotes, memorabilia, manuscript pages, reviews, and film stills add a visual backdrop to this engaging glimpse of Canada's most famous author. A sketched figure of Maud points to important opinions or pieces of information. Montgomery's other books get a glance too, and there is a complete list at the end, along with lists of sites to visit, both in Canada and on the Web. A terrific format for an appealing subject. (index) (Biography. 9-11)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-55074-487-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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