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Cleopatra's Moon



Exciting novel imagines the life of Cleopatra's daughter.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids learn a lot about everyday life as in ancient Roman/Egyptian times. Instead of romanticizing the period, includes fascinating details, such as how white clothing was bleached with urine, and takes on big issues, including the unequal treatment of men and women and the brutality of war.

Positive messages

The book's light bulb moment is a culmination of the heroine's growth. Instead of trying to become her mother, she chooses instead to find her own power and focus on her own accomplishments. Throughout the novel there are examples of kindness, love, and self-sacrifice that are also positive examples for tween and teens.

Positive role models

The book has very big villains but also very prominent positive role models, who are not without flaws but rise to meet challenges when needed. Cleopatra Selene's mother, brothers, and close friend Juba are all positive role models in her life. Cleopatra Selene herself has a passion for truth, family, and the internal strength it takes to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.


There is a good deal of violence in the last days of Queen Cleopatra's reign. The suicides of Mark Antony and others are described in detail, including the look, smell, and color of the blood. There are also descriptions of animal sacrifice, beatings, murder, the attempted rape of a child, allusions to the rape of women by soldiers and poisoning of enemies. Readers also will encounter crucifixions and the strangulation death of a prisoner.


There is talk of sex, including sexual promiscuity and the use of prostitutes and concubines throughout the novel. The virginity of a girl is discussed several times, as well as a sexual encounter of a teen girl and her almost lover. There are naked men and women, and a young girl is almost raped. There is also discussion of eunuchs and "effeminate" men.


A mother is called "whore," "slut," "bastard," "bitch," while her children are present. And there is some use of swear words of ancient times. But, overall, the language is striking only in how hurtful it can be.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One adult male has an obvious drinking problem, and others are shown drinking wine and beer. Also, people are given special drinks that induce visions during an initiation ceremony.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this work of historical fiction gives readers a vivid picture of what life was like for Cleopatra's children during the period leading up to and following her death. The novel includes swear words, some harsh name calling, suicides, murder, and attempted rape. The book shows the brutality of war, which may be especially disturbing as it is presented in an eye-witness account of a child. There is also discussion of sexuality in both positive and negative relationships.

Kids say

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What's the story?

Cleopatra Selene is the only daughter of famous Queen Cleopatra. She is fiercely independent while longing to live up to her mother's expectations. Her world is perfect until political problems and war means the loss of everything she's ever known and everyone she's ever loved. Navigating a hostile country and homelife, she vows to reclaim her mother's throne, but is her mother's life the life for her?

Is it any good?


Author Vicky Alvear Schecter brings Cleopatra's daughter Cleopatra Selene to life in this truly engaging and exciting novel. The characters are well developed and Schecter is masterful at drawing a picture of ancient Egypt and Rome so detailed readers can almost feel the marble of Egypt underneath their feet and smell the harbor of Rome. The novel is perfectly paced and filled with action, romance, aching loss,  and redemption. Teen and tween readers will find themselves completely captivated and feel their heart race alongside Cleopatra Selene's. 

Parents may want to read CLEOPATRA'S MOON alongside their children, particularly younger ones, as it has many disturbing scenes and complicated topics. This is a great book for discussing women's roles in ancient times and today. This is one of those books that both adults and their kids will love.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about dealing with loss. Why was it important for Cleopatra to ensure that her family members would have a proper funeral when they died? Have you ever lost a family member or friend? Did you go to the funeral? How did it make you feel?

  • Cleopatra's Moon deals with parental expectations vs. the expectations young adults have for themselves. Do you feel pressure to be interested in things your parents are interested in?

  • Families can talk about healthy sexual relationships. What types of relationships did Cleopatra Selene witness? Which ones were positive? Which ones were negative?

  • Families can also talk about the differences in how women and men were treated in different cultures. What cultures do you identify with the most? How do you feel about how women are treated in those cultures?

Book details

Author:Vicky Alvear Shecter
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Arthur A. Levine
Publication date:August 1, 2011
Number of pages:368
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

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Parent of a 6, 8, 10, 12, and 18+ year old Written byMatushka January 31, 2012

This review is by my 12 year-old daughter:

"This book is great. It is the first book I've ever read in which I've cried. I like historical fiction like 'The Red-Headed Princess.' The characters are good. The message is that you cannot become someone you are not. And you have to choose between two loves. I would definitely recommend this book to girls my age and above."
What other families should know
Educational value
Too much violence
Too much sex
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old Written bypeony January 19, 2012


This vivid, compelling historical fiction about fascinating characters should have terrific appeal to teen girl readers, and is enjoyable reading for adults too! The author did an outstanding job; I gather she's written non-fiction on this historical period and to solid knowledge of the era she has in this book also added great storytelling. I would caution that the first third of the book, set in Egypt, is one long drumbeat of impending and then arrived doom, including the death (by suicide) of both beloved parents, and other violence (see the CSM details). Although this violence is not gratuitous -- it's actually rather restrained and tasteful while still being true to the times and events -- I think it puts this book a bit beyond a more sensitive 12-year-old reader, so I'm marking this book as suitable for ages 13 and up. I'll comment that the book also does have some sexuality; I consider it appropriate for the story. The part set in Rome is fascinating in its depiction of life there: violence, deaths and treachery, as well as romance and culture.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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