Title: What’s Their Story? Cleopatra Author: Haydn Middleton Illustrator: Barry Wilkinson Publisher: Oxford; Oxford University Press
Genre: Biographies Level: Intermediate Number of pages: 31 Pub. Date: 1997
This book gives a summary of Cleopatra’s life. It skips over a lot of her early life and mainly talks about her life after she marries her brother Ptolemy in 51 BC. The book discusses how she meets Julius Caesar and Marc Antony and has children with both of them. Finally, it explains how she kills herself rather than become prisoner to the Roman General Octavian.
This book is a Fictional portrait of Cleopatra. While it seems to be based on careful research, there are no primary resources. Without these resources there is no way of knowing if the events happened the way Middleton says that they do. On the other hand, this book is more fact than fiction meaning that it is not a biographical fiction.
I have a large previous knowledge of Cleopatra, and have even taught a class about her two years ago. I find that this book sticks to the facts relatively well. While it leaves out some facts about her life, like her three sisters, it doesn’t stretch any facts in the text. One problem I have with this book is that they describe Cleopatra as tricking the Roman generals into loving her. This is a biased opinion that the Roman’s spread during the time period. Inn actuality there is no way of knowing if Cleopatra loved the men or not. Another problem with this book are the illustrations. Wilkinson portrays Cleopatra with straight black hair with bangs. This is a normal mistake and is based in are preconceived notions about Cleopatra. In fact Cleopatra wore wigs with curly hair.
However, despite these problems I believe that this book gives a relatively strong portrayal of Cleopatra if paired with other literature on her.
Before: Discuss the assumptions about Cleopatra and the accuracy of any previous knowledge of Cleopatra.