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Aeicha @ Word Spelunking

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

(MMGM) Vicky Alvear Shecter, middle-grade author {review, guest post, giveaway}

Welcome to Day 17 of the 4th Annual March MG Madness! Today we celebrate author Vicky Alvear Shecter and her captivating books...

Cleopatra Rules: The Amazing Life of the Original Teen
by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Boyds Mills Press

In this lively, informal biography, Vicky Alvear Shecter shows that Cleopatra was a far more capable and powerful ruler than people have thought. Most of what we’ve known about Cleopatra—and what crept into art, film, and literature—came from her enemies, the Romans. But, ascending to the throne at 17, Cleopatra proved herself a brilliant negotiator who forged alliances that kept her in power and in control of her kingdom. This book about Egypt’s last and most famous pharaoh features an inviting text, many sidebars, and excellent color illustrations: maps, photos of ancient artifacts, and artworks from many historical periods.

Praise for Cleopatra
School Library Journal:  “Short chapters with banner headlines every few paragraphs organize Cleopatra’s action-packed life into easily processed pieces… the scholarship is sound: in this case, a spoonful of Pop-Rocks may help the Ptolemies go down.” 

Booklist:  “This attractive book presents Cleopatra’s story through an unusual text, many informative sidebars, and excellent color illustrations: maps, photos of ancient artifacts, and artworks from many historical periods.” 

Hades Speaks! A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead
by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Boyds Mills Press
Hades, god of the dead, welcomes readers on a dangerous tour of his underworld kingdom, filled with monsters, furies, giants, and vampire demons. Along the way, he reveals ancient death rites and sinister curses, tells hair-raising stories, and cracks jokes to die for. With his witty voice and ghoulish sense of humor, Hades is the perfect guide through this fresh and imaginative work of nonfiction that reads like a novel. Includes a glossary, bibliography, and index. 

Anubis Speaks: A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead
by Vicky Alvear Shecter
Boyds Mills Press

Who better than Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification, to serve as a guide through the dreaded Land of the Dead? In this fresh and imaginative approach to nonfiction, the first title in the Secrets of the Ancient Gods series, Anubis steers the reader through the Egyptian dark lands. Along the way, they meet fearsome gods and gruesome monsters. And they witness the battle of the gods against Apophis, the giant demon-snake trying to devour the world. With ghoulish humor and lots of attitude (he is a god, after all), Anubis introduces readers to ancient Egyptian beliefs and rituals—including the secrets of mummification—with panache and, if he does say so himself, drop-dead humor. Includes glossary, bibliography, and index.

Praise for Anubis

School Library Journal:  “At the heart of this imaginative tour of the afterworld of Egyptian mythology is the judgment of the dead . . . Anubis serves as a wickedly funny tour guide. This book is packed with information . . . Anubis’s narration, plus the incredible wealth of interesting detail, could make this book a hit in any library.” 

 Kirkus:  ” . . . an informative and unusually lively look at the Egyptian way of death.”

In Hades Speaks!: A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead, Anubis Speaks!: A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead, and Cleopatra Rules!: The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen, author Vicky Alvear Shecter takes readers on a wildly entertaining and captivating journey through the Greek Underworld, Egyptian Afterlife, and the life and times of Cleopatra. Hades Speaks and Anubis Speaks are narrated by Hades and Anubis and the snarktastic Gods explore not only their fiery realms, but offer an informative glimpse into many aspects of Greek and Egyptian myths and legends. While Cleopatra Rules aims to get to the truth and heart of who Cleopatra really was, not just what history has made her.

Though Hades Speaks!, Anubis Speaks!, and Cleopatra Rules are considered non-fiction, they read very much like exciting, twists and turn filled middle-grade adventures. Full of fascinating facts, spellbinding myths, laugh-out-loud humor, and sparkling writing, these are completely addictive and charming books. Vicky Alvear Shecter lays out the Underworld, the Afterlife, and Ancient Egypt in rich, vivid details, exploring every nook and cranny, sharing fun myths and facts along the way. Young readers will be simply mesmerized by these complex worlds and their unforgettable inhabitants. The Greek and Egyptian myths and figures introduced are explored in age-appropriate ways while keeping all the over-the-top, stunning, startling, sometimes wacky elements intact. Hades and Anubis make for highly amusing narrators with their snarky, irresistible humor. I loved every moment of my time with these underrated gods!

I’m a huge mythology and history fan and found myself completely enthralled by the fantastical stories Hades and Anubis spin, and mesmerized by the captivating history presented in Cleopatra Rules. Young readers will have so much fun reading these books, but they will also learn a great deal as well. I found the glossaries, timelines, maps, and sources especially informative and handy!

My Final Thoughts: Bursting with humor, intriguing history, fantastical myths, creatures, and stories, and a pitch-perfect voice, young and old readers alike will gobble these fun books up!

The Power of Humor in
MG Nonfiction

By Vicky Alvear Shecter

Kids of all ages—but especially middle-graders—seek out humor in every possible situation. We can either try to quash the giggles or go with them. I prefer the latter, which is why I write nonfiction with an edge of humor.

From a god who falls for the “lay-down-in-this-box-to-see-if-you-will-fit” murder-trick (Osiris) to a Roman general who won’t engage in battle because his chickens refused to feed, history is filled with stories designed to tickle our funny bones.

Hades Speaks, A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead is classified as nonfiction because the facts about the ancient Greeks and Romans are true and vetted. It’s considered “Creative Nonfiction” because a fictional persona shares the facts. Hades himself, the dark god of the underworld, acts as a snarky tour guide throughout the book, explaining ancient Greek rituals, practices, and beliefs.

We cross the Styx, meet the three-headed dog Cerberus (“Fluffy” in the Harry Potter books), and come face-to-face with all manner of ghosts, blood-sucking ghouls and bats whose flapping wings deposit nightmares into your sleep.

Hades explains little known facts about ancient Greek culture. For example, he points out that the Olympic Games originally started out as funeral games to honor him but over time, ended up as a festival to honor Zeus.  

Like all older brothers who rail against their spoiled younger siblings, Hades cannot let it go.  “Zeus is the little brother from hell, you guys. Seriously,” the dark lord grumbles.

Hades also hates that everybody forgets that he was the first “He Who Must Not be Named.”

“Yes, that’s right,” he points out. “Way before Voldermort and Harry Potter, the ancients were afraid to call my name out loud. They feared that if I heard them, I’d be compelled to drag them down to the underworld. Honestly, I found this insulting. I was a king. A ruler. I did not bag and tag humans like some evil hunter whenever I heard my name. I let my monstrous minions do that.”

Even in more straightforward biographies such as Cleopatra Rules: The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen, I used humor. After all, the personalities within the stories are so larger-than-life, it’s almost a disservice to tell them without acknowledging the funny parts.

Sometimes, looking for “the funny” is the only way to reel-in the reluctant reader. For all readers, it’s a great way to make learning accessible.

Vicky Alvear Shecter wishes she had a time machine to go back to the glory days of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Until she can find one, she writes about the famous and fabulous lives of the ancients and their gods instead. She is also a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University.

Win Hades Speaks! A Guide to the Underworld by the Greek God of the Dead!
Vicky has generously offered one book for one winner.
-US only
-ends 3/31
(please read the FULL rules below the rafflecopter)

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Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

Thanks, Aicha, for the feature. I love your blog!

Jillyn said...

This sounds awesome- Hades is my favorite part of the pantheon :)