Stanley, Diane. 1994. Cleopatra.
Ill. by Peter Vennema. New York: Morrow Junior Books.
Diane Stanley and her husband Peter Vennema collaborate in this picture
book biography that tells the life of Cleopatra from a fresh
perspective. Aimed at readers from second grade and up, Stanley
begins the book with a readable preface that both gives necessary
background knowledge and also sets the tone for the story (At the time
our story opens...). A note on Ancient sources and a detailed map
also precede the main text and allow the reader to familiarize
themselves with the setting of the story. A Pronunciation Guide
and Bibliography follow the main text.
One of Stanley's outstanding strengths is her ability to tell history
in a way that is thorough and understandable yet does not condescend to
young readers. The story unfolds in a fashion that is easy to
follow and also gives many details of Cleopatra's life. Stanley
emphasizes the fact that although Cleopatra has been portrayed by
history as a Jezebel, there were many more facets to this famous woman
from history. In describing Cleopatra's relationship to Julius
Caesar, Stanley says, "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."
Stanley's text goes on to illustrate this through accounts such as
Cleopatra's political savvy and ability to outwit her enemies.
Vennema's colorful artwork leaps off the pages of this biography.
Bright colors and realistic facial expressions on the characters
enhance the text by giving reader's a glimpse of what Cleopatra's world
might have looked like. Vennema stays true to the period of
history being discussed by adding elements such as mosaic tile (both in
the illustrations and as a background for the text), period clothing,
and accurate drawings of ships from Cleopatra's time.