Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cleopatra’s Moon Book Review

Author: Vicky Alvear Shecter. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Arthur A. Levine Books. ISBN: 9780545221306.
Annotation:  After the death of her parents, Cleopatra Selene, the only daughter of Queen Cleopatra and Marcus Antonius, is exiled from her home in Alexandria, along with her two brothers, and forced to live in the home of her enemy, Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar.
Personal thoughts:  As a fan of historical fiction and Ancient Egypt, this novel was pretty easy for me to enjoy. Despite these personal prejudices, however, I did find the book to be well-written and a really excellent way to make someone who lived thousands of years ago relatable to modern-day readers, especially teen girls. Anthony and Cleopatra are almost a household name, and the thought of Cleopatra’s daughter being just as intelligent and beautiful as her mother makes for an intriguing story. Overall, an excellent book for fans of historical fiction, Egyptian history, or strong women in history.
Plot summary: The romance of Anthony and Cleopatra has been known throughout history as one of the most passionate and tragic love stories of all time. The story not as commonly known, however, is what became of the children of Anthony and Cleopatra, particularly their only daughter, Cleopatra Selene, after their deaths.  As intelligent, strong-willed and beautiful as her mother, Cleopatra Selene is just a girl when Octavianus of Rome, commonly known as Augustus Caesar, conquers Egypt, murders her older brother, and pushes her parents into committing suicide. Soon after, Cleopatra Selene, her twin brother, Alexandros, and their younger brother, Ptolemy, are sent to Rome to be raised in Octavianus’ own household. Cleopatra Selene and her brothers must fight for their lives in Rome, never certain of whom they can trust and always aware that Caesar will take any opportunity to end their lives. As Cleopatra Selene grows older, she begins to realize that, like her mother, she has the power to seduce men with her beauty and intellect. Determined to restore her family to their beloved Egypt, Cleopatra Selene must devise a plan that will keep her and her brothers safe and ensure that their fates are different from their parents’.
Review: Based on the true story of Anthony and Cleopatra’s only daughter, Cleopatra’s Moon is an entertaining and informative novel that holds a great deal of appeal for any reader with an interest in ancient Egypt. Shecter does an excellent job of presenting the history of Cleopatra Selene and the other royal children of Egypt. A character list at the start of the book helps to prevent any confusion about the various people involved in the life of Cleopatra Selene as she experiences the destruction of her family and her exile to Rome. Cleopatra Selene is a very likable heroine, particularly because she actually lived and, based on her life, most likely had as much intelligence, determination and loyalty as Shecter portrays in the novel. In fact, the entire story is very interesting in its depictions of some very famous historical figures. Readers who are not as familiar with the history will, undoubtedly, be prompted to research the actual events and characters in the book, making Cleopatra’s Moon the grounds for a very interesting educational experience.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reading level: Grade 7+
Similar titles: Cleopatra Rules!: The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen by Vicky Alvear Shecter, Lily of the Nile and Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray (novels also about Cleopatra Selene), Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran, Becoming marie Antoinette: A Novel by Juliet Grey.   
Themes:  Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, Cleopatra, loyalty, death, loss, religion.      
Awards/Reviews:  From award-winning author.
Series Information: N/A    
Discussion questions: 
-  Research the life of Cleopatra Selene online. How do the historical facts compare to the novel?
- What are important factors in making a novel about a historical figure interesting for readers? Do you think the author changed Cleopatra’s Selene story to make a more entertaining novel?
- Religion plays an important role in Cleopatra Selene’s life. How do you think her belief in the gods of ancient Egypt influenced her actions? Do your religious beliefs influence your life?
-   How did the statement, “You are not your mother,” influence Cleopatra Selene. Do you think it turned out to be true?
- What do you think motivated Octavia’s actions? Livia’s? Octavianus’?

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