The author has a charming writing style. The thing that disturbed me about this book, however, was that the author didn't seem to be arguing for the a...moreThe author has a charming writing style. The thing that disturbed me about this book, however, was that the author didn't seem to be arguing for the abolition of slavery at all. Numerous times in the book, following a description of some of the cruelties imposed on the slaves, the author takes the opportunity to share with the reader his insight that a well-treated slave is a happy slave, and therefore a hard-working slave.
Instead of the abolition of slavery, what the author seems to be aiming for is simply to encourage slave owners to treat their slaves more humanely so that they will work harder and therefore be more profitable.
So, while I thought it was well-written, the purpose of the author in writing the autobiography seemed to me a little disturbing.(less)
As other reviewers have said, this is a good overview of each of the emperors of Ancient Rome. I, however, did not find it to be an excellent referenc...moreAs other reviewers have said, this is a good overview of each of the emperors of Ancient Rome. I, however, did not find it to be an excellent reference book.
When read chronologically, the book provides fascinating facts and insights into each emperor and also into how each relates both to his predecessor and to his successor. Also helpful were the fact summarizers on the sides of the pages introducing each new emperor.
When I tried to go back and pull out information on a specific emperor to share with my students, however, I found it challenging to remember all I needed to about the previous emperor in order to follow what was being said about the one I wanted to focus on. In other words, unless being read in order, the facts are too obscure and not reviewed enough to use it as a reference book.(less)
The text in this one is fascinating, informative, and age-appropriate for its target audience. I read this to my class of 3rd graders during our unit...moreThe text in this one is fascinating, informative, and age-appropriate for its target audience. I read this to my class of 3rd graders during our unit on Ancient Rome and they were captivated.
Where I had to take stars off was in the illustrations and in some of the facts.
This book chooses to use the legend that Cleopatra met Julius Caesar by being hidden and carried into his chamber by a servant. The quote from the book: "Apollodorus wrapped her up in a roll of bedding (some say it was a rug) and carried her into the palace." Never in any other source have I heard it called a roll of bedding, and many sources even argue against the legend of it being a rug.
And the illustration to go along with this has poor Apollodorus who has just carried Cleopatra into the palace depicted as a tiny, scrawny young man, so my students devolved into laughter as they wondered how he managed to carry the queen AND all of the bedding/rug.
However, I was impressed that the traditional bitten-by-the-asp theory of her death wasn't here proclaimed as the likely truth. Especially in light of current research which is showing that theory to be less and less likely, I appreciated that Ms. Stanley presented what we know for certain as well as several theories. I was grateful for the opening that gave me to have some good discussions with my students about the challenges of accuracy in history that is so ancient and not as well documented.(less)
It's so short, with so many facts thrown in that it didn't feel like a story at all, more a summary of her life. Wh...moreThis came across as very odd to me.
It's so short, with so many facts thrown in that it didn't feel like a story at all, more a summary of her life. Which, given the intended audience, seems rather an odd approach, as even to me the dry tone was uninteresting.
However, in among the plain list of facts were a few attempts to guess at what Deborah Sampson's emotions might have been over certain events. For example: "Deborah loved her kind cousin. Miss Fuller taught her how to spin and weave, and how to make bread. Best of all were the wonderful hours of reading lessons... For three years Deborah was happy." Which attempts at making this a "story" and not just a summary just came across as condescending.
Also, there were a few events included in the story that seemed rather too mature for the intended audience. The most vivid being the detailed description of Deborah using her knife to dig a bullet out of her own leg so that doctors wouldn't find out she's a girl.
So, I suppose by odd I mean contradictory. The dry facts presented in a condescending tone interspersed with too-graphic details makes me wonder just who the intended audience might be. I'm not sure how comfortable I feel having this in my classroom library.(less)
This was definitely an interesting book, for more reasons that the author likely intended. This was the first biography I've read in which the opinion...moreThis was definitely an interesting book, for more reasons that the author likely intended. This was the first biography I've read in which the opinions of the author were so unabashedly evident. Julius Caesar is discussed in tones of honor sometimes bordering on worship. Antony is vilified and villainized (to the extent that the author claims Antony had complete knowledge of the plan to assassinate Julius Caesar and chose to do nothing about it).
Once the narrative reached the point where Augustus fully came to power, however, I actually came to appreciate having the author so present. In the short histories I've read to prepare to teach Ancient Rome to my 3rd grace class, Augustus is often portrayed as cold, distant (the sole use of notes to communicate with his wife was frequently emphasized), and morally superior. This was the first time I was able to see Augustus in a different, more human, light. And I appreciated it.
Along that same line, I think my favorite thing about this book is that we were given glimpses into Augustus's relationships with his friends and family. Learning how big a role both Agrippa and Livia both apparently played in Augustus's success was fascinating. As was seeing the ways in which those relationships evolved and transformed as Augustus came more into power.
I enjoyed this book, and appreciated the more human and relate-able version of Augustus Caesar that it introduced me to.(less)
This book was fascinating, and reading it was an interesting experience.
This is the first book I've read by Ms. Schiff, and it took me more than half...moreThis book was fascinating, and reading it was an interesting experience.
This is the first book I've read by Ms. Schiff, and it took me more than half of the book to come to appreciate her writing style. It seemed for much of the book as though she wasn't sure of who her audience was. Ms. Schiff uses some fantastic words that I got to look up (I love acquiring new useless vocabulary, so that was a delightful positive addition to the experience), which to me seemed to make certain assumptions about her audience. And yet, at the same time, the tone in which she presents certain information came across as almost insultingly condescending.
I'm not sure if it's that the second half of the book was different or if I simply became accustomed to her writing style, but I enjoyed the second half much more than the first.
My favorite thing about this book is that it's such a different perspective than any I've come across before. One of the history units I teach is on ancient Rome (one of my main motivations in reading this) our class textbook and the other resources I found were all very pro-Octavian/Augustus. Ms. Schiff, on the other hand, is very much pro-Marc Antony. It was fascinating to see how events and even words (both sides used Marc Antony's pamphlet "On His Drunkenness" to prove very different points) could be interpreted in vastly different ways.
I appreciated that Ms. Schiff made it very clear when she was working from historic records, and when she was having to veer off into speculation given the lack of records on certain events.
Overall, I found this biography both fascinating and informative. And, especially in the second half, enjoyable to read.(less)