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From Gladiators to the Secret Service

by Ed Butts & illustrated by Scott Plumbe

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55451-437-3
Publisher: Annick Press

It would be easy to say: “This book includes all the information you need to become a bodyguard.” But the real value of the book is that it contains information you don’t need at all.

According to Chapter 1, it was almost impossible to speak to the pharaoh of Egypt. One needed, Butts writes, “to make an appointment to see the priests’ secretary, to make an appointment to see the priests, to make an appointment to see the pharaoh.” Some authors would have ended the story there, but he lets it keep building: “First, the priests made you take a bath—maybe two or three of them.” The best reason to pick up this book is that every story has one more detail than is necessary. Chapter 6 mentions that geese, donkeys and llamas make good early warning systems because of their sensitive hearing. The next sentence points out that ostriches, emus and kangaroos are also effective. The comic strips that appear in each chapter, on the other hand, add nothing of value. They simply repeat facts from the pages around them, and the characters have such limited facial expression that the story is difficult to follow from panel to panel. Aside from ancient Egyptian priests and animals, other types of bodyguards mentioned include, among others, the Vatican’s Swiss Guard, Abraham Lincoln’s tippling police guard and Elvis’ Memphis Mafia. 

This book includes a lengthy training guide from experienced bodyguards, but it may be the emus that children remember most. (glossary, chronology, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)